“That was a nice speech…”

LAST week, Rwanda joined the rest of the world in marking the Global entrepreneurship week. In deed, entrepreneurship was talk of the town.  The support was there, and it was all superb.  We thank everyone who was involved in this; Babson, RDB, BDF, ULK and all the participating institutions, as well as the entrepreneurs.
Sam Kebongo
Sam Kebongo

LAST week, Rwanda joined the rest of the world in marking the Global entrepreneurship week. In deed, entrepreneurship was talk of the town.  The support was there, and it was all superb.

We thank everyone who was involved in this; Babson, RDB, BDF, ULK and all the participating institutions, as well as the entrepreneurs.

The passionate speeches about entrepreneurship! I was impressed and could not help time and again mumbling; “that was a very nice speech”.

Now, as the dust settles, we need to review what we did what we achieved and the challenges ahead.

This way, we would be able to appreciate where we are now, how far we have come and, more importantly, where we want to be and how to get there.

Where we come from: Through time, we have expected ‘development’ to come from outside. Some foreign firm(s) (from the west, preferably from a former colonial master comes with moneybags, invests  and sets up  firms,  employs our people and then we take off on the economic super highway thence.

Trickle-down economics! It has not brought us very far, partly due to our own internal inefficiencies but mostly due to the very nature of the set up.

Where we are: We are now becoming more cognizant of our roles, jointly or severally, in bettering our lives, albeit grudgingly.

We realize that the jobs that we produce are not enough for the students graduating from our universities and colleges.

We are thus encouraging our students and young people to ‘think out of the box’ and think of starting their own businesses. It is a good message to the right audience.

 Where we want to be: Rwanda’s vision 2020 is a good guide for this. We want to be a middle income economy driven by a vibrant private sector in the next nine years. But what is a middle income economy?

According to the World Bank, these are countries with a GNI (Gross National Income, which is the total income accruing to the earnings of the nationals divided by the population) per capita of between $1,006 to $3,795 for lower middle income and $3,976 to $12,275. Rwanda’s GNI as of 2010 was $540. In nine years we need to double this. The good news is that this is the highest GNI per capita Rwanda has ever attained, so we are on the right path,

How we should get there: About 7 million Rwandans are nine years and above based on the population figures from the Rwanda statistical yearbook of 2010. This is the estimated number of Rwandans who will be the driving force of the economy as they are able to engage in gainful employment (productive age).

By 2020, with a projected population of 16 million (which might be conservative) each of these people should be able to have an income of $2300 to $ 8675, for Rwanda to be a lower middle income country.

If we consider in the fact that skilled workforce constitute the group that earns better; then the higher the proportion of this population segment that is  not only skilled, but is also actively and productively engaged, the better.

In a nutshell, we must start creating jobs now. The only difference is that we need to ‘decentralize’ this job creation such that as many people as possible are involved in job creation.

This is the essence of entrepreneurship to the country. Sounds daunting? May be, but it is very possible. Look at it this way; do you want to be rich? Here’s an opportunity!

Yes those were nice speeches, but we have to go beyond speeches into action. As my Rotarian friend, Sanjay Kulkarni says; Words are words, promises are promises, explanations are explanations but only performance is reality! Let’s keep up the hype, it is good; but more importantly let us back it up with actions. “Imvugo niyo ngiro!”

Sam Kebongo teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. He also is a Director at Serian Ltd that provides skills and business advisory services consultancy.

Email: sam.kebongo@gmail.com

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