If you observe closely, expatriates are increasingly taking senior leadership roles in business and government in many countries – Rwanda inclusive. I am not complaining. I think that in a meritocratic society like ours, it is only fair that the very best get rewarded, no matter their race, religion or nationality. Like a friend said to me recently, I rather these talented and driven people be on our team contributing to our nation than against us from their home country.
The question I have been asking is, ‘what makes these expatriates succeed in foreign lands?’ What I noticed is that these expatriates have a very important quality that many Rwandans had while in exile. It is a quality that our grandfathers and great grandfathers had as they were laying the foundations for modern Rwanda, and was later evident in the nation’s liberation struggle. This quality is the hunger for success and the fighting spirit.
Expatriates who come here today have the same tremendous hunger for success that we used to have while in exile. They are willing to sacrifice, work hard and pay the price to succeed. They also believe that no one owes them a living and they have to work hard for themselves. They also bring with them the humility and willingness to learn.
This hunger and drive can also be seen in the workforce. Expatriates are willing to work long hours, go the extra mile, are fiercely loyal to you and don’t complain so much. They know that if they can come in and learn and work hard, they will eventually climb up and earn a lot more. They are willing to invest in themselves, pay the price for future rewards. Sometimes I wonder how some of the locals are going to compete with this. Of course, this is just a generalization. There are definitely many more Rwandans who create lots of value and show fighting spirit.
It is, therefore, critical that more and more young Rwandans develop this hunger for success. After all, these expatriates should only serve as placeholders until a core of able Rwandans eventually emerges to claim these positions in the medium to long term. This calls for the young Rwandans to not complain all the time, or even blame circumstances and wait for others to push them. They should not hold on to the attitude that the world owes them a living, because it doesn’t.
While I acknowledge that the kids of today are much smarter and well informed than I was at their age, I find that they lack the resilience and tenacity they need to survive in the new global economy. Some kids nowadays tend to give up easily once they find that things get tough and demand instant gratification. When they have to work first to get rewards later, many tend to lack the patience to follow through.
Rwanda has always been a nation of hardworking and dedicated people. Some would say that the problem is that life in Rwanda has been too good and comfortable. Others think that parents nowadays give kids everything they want and over protect them from hardship and failure.
Regardless of what the reason is, younger Rwandans are a positive force for the development of Rwanda. They should be actively involved in looking after the country, and ensuring that it continues to provide the best home for all of us. They should espouse values from the previous generation of Rwandans, and fiercely fight for their nation’s future. When young Rwandans involve themselves in this manner, they not only help to make it a positive and constructive force for the development of Rwanda, they also strengthen the value of their citizenship.