The fulfilment of being a parent again makes me beam with joy and pride. As I hold my new born daughter, with her two and a half year old sister playing on the side, I cannot help but feel a sense of profound happiness.
I could be looking at the next Prime Minister, Chief Justice, a CEO of a fortune 500 company or a Nobel Prize winner – leaders of their generation.
By 2050, my daughters’ generation will inherit and lead Rwanda. This is a statement of fact. It is not a proposition but a fait accompli. It is a demographic certainty.
My generation will be around 70 and even with all the miracles of modern medicine, we will have to be content with enjoying the sunset seated in a cosy chair.
My daughter’s generation will be around 40 years and in charge of government, the academia, business, the arts or social activism. They will be masters and charters of their own and others’ destiny.
Of course, my daughters’ generation will face challenges, as with every generation. The human race was not given to accepting the status quo.
We create challenges for ourselves. Intrinsic in our DNA, is the constant desire to aspire and attain. Sometimes this has led to abject misery and the abyss of failure. Other times we bask in the triumph of right over wrong as in the abolition of slavery. Society and human kind marches on. But besides the idealism, the generation of my two daughters will be faced with an unprecedented set of challenges. Fundamentally, globalisation and connectivity will mean that they will now be pitted, skill for skill against Mr. Singh in India, Mr. Lee from China or Miss Jones from USA or Robots from Japan.
Because it can and will be done by someone somewhere else or by a machine or robot that never sleeps or tires.
The skills that will attract a premium will be those that involve the ability to recognise and analyse complex patterns and to offer solutions.
Because we are exposed to global competition, we will have to differentiate ourselves so that we can continue to command our premium to maintain or improve our lifestyles.
Let me push this point by way of numerical comparisons. 20 years ago, less than 5% of each birth cohort in Rwanda got into universities. A degree then differentiated the holder as the elite. Presently about 50% of each cohort will obtain a degree from the public, private or overseas Universities.
This percentage is likely to go up as more Rwandans can afford greater access to Universities world-wide. But not only will they need to compete with one another, they will also need to compete with graduates from China and India – and there are many of them. According to the Business Week, “India produces 6 million college graduates per year”.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates China produces 1.7 million graduates per year. That is why the Ministry of Education needs to make significant changes to our educational policy, to better prepare my daughters’ cohort for the future.
We need to nurture the spirit of innovation and enterprise in our young; to challenge the young people of today to have intellectual curiosity, challenging assumptions and the ‘old way’ of doing things, having the courage to take calculated risks and resilience in a constantly changing world.
So, what will 2050 look like in Rwanda? This is a question parents in my age bracket do not have answers for yet. But one thing we know for sure is that the choices made today, will effectively determine the future. I hope my daughters and their peers will inherit and lead a prosperous Rwanda. In turn, the generation of my daughters will chart the destiny of this nation and her people to even greater heights.
The good news is that my daughters’ generation has great things in store because they will most likely start from a higher base.
As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”