We humans, being creatures of habit, like to live in familiar and stable environments. We get used to living under certain conditions and circumstances and presume that is the way life has been since the beginning of time, is, and will or should carry on till the end of time. Every now and then, our lives are jolted by external stimuli, natural or otherwise and only then do we begin to change in order to adjust and adapt to our new conditions. A little reactionary, but nevertheless, true.
As an example; the history of salary employment in Africa, considered ‘normal’ today is curious and inglorious. Before the infamous scramble for Africa by Europeans in the 19th century, Africans had a way of life based on totally different philosophy as well as socio-economic set up. It has been variously claimed that our ancestors were savage and primitive beings that needed to be pacified and civilised. Nothing could be further from the truth. These systems, despite being different, served our people very well. Otherwise, how could one explain the perpetuity of these communities? In deed, you only need to visit the King’s palace at Rukari, Nyanza in Rwanda Southern Province to appreciate see how well organised these gentlemen and ladies were.
In came the colonialists with a totally different socio-economic order and philosophy. Everything was turned on its head. One thing about the new order was that it was exclusive instead of inclusive and subjugative instead of participative. It was meant to serve the new colonialists, and to use the colonised people and their resources in so doing. One of the new features of this system was the introduction of wage employment. But then, the cart is before the horse here; Africans were forcibly removed from their land by European colonialists who then imposed a tax system that rendered them landless. They could only pay this new tax through currency introduced by the colonialist and they could only get this by working in the colonialists’ farm. It was a clear case of having lost the game before you even start playing! And in came the wage/salary employment. Slowly but surely, it became the norm, albeit enforced.
Now oppression had taken so many forms that at independence, Africans were just too glad to have the political independence that in most cases, no serious thought was given to the economic colonialism’s structures in place. As a result, almost half a decade later, our economies are generally agriculture based economies that export raw materials to the west. And yes, the normal thing is to have a paid job now.
As often said, the bacteria that cause a disease cannot be used to cure the same disease. The colonial economic structure that impoverished Africans cannot be used to ‘cure’ the same poverty prob1lem. Something’s got to give and things must be done differently. This is the basis for Rwanda’s Vision 2020, Kenya’s vision 2030 and so on. What will make this reality is the ownership and high involvement levels of the citizens. This is where you and I come in.
As we usher in the New Year, you could try and create new standards, a voluntary new normal this time round. Look at all the problems in your community and think of ways you can solve them. Think of them as opportunities and seize the opportunities. Don’t wait for some hotshot foreign investor to come do something about it. Think about starting your own business. Make it happen. Think about the way you think but above all, try in order to create a new normal. The most important thing is to keep trying.
Happy New Year.
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.
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