There is a nasty cold doing the rounds and you never know when it couches you. I was not spared this time. Thanks to the plenty of water I took and rest that brought my quick recovery. Well, amidst the ravages of the flu I got a hamburger craving. When these things come upon you its best that you rapidly give in to them; you never know what essential mineral your body is asking for.
One of the best hamburger joints in Kigali historically [post-1994 anyway] is Amy’s Fast Food situated close to the main roundabout downtown. I sat down and ordered the biggest burger in the house and mineral water.
I was surprised to get, instead of the standard Amazi ya Huye or Inyange, a bottle of Kenyan bottled water. I’m totally for globalization and regional trade, in theory; but why would I spend my francs on Kenyan water when our domestic industry can provide me with a satisfactory product.
The big issue with the proprietor came about when I insisted on a Rwandan brand. He, amazingly, didn’t have a single bottle of Rwandan water. I’m constantly going on about the weaknesses of our domestic industry and I have every right to.
They are small concerns that often don’t even try to expand. All they do is just stay afloat; they enjoy being big fish in a small pond. However, now wasn’t the time to push them along to their graves.
I demanded a local brand and when I didn’t get one I walked to the supermarket next door and bought a cold bottle. That was the beginning of the fight I started having with the proprietor. He took it as a personal affront that I chose not to buy his product. I tried to explain myself but I found it extremely difficult.
Globalization is a force that we can’t fight. Honestly, we shouldn’t even bother because it will overwhelm us if we try. Free trade in goods is a good thing because it leads to cheaper products for the end consumer. But however, even in the most globalized region in the world local producers still have an edge.
In the United States for example, General Motors is still able to tussle it out with the Japanese Toyota brand because many customers make a conscience decision to buy American products. Very often, this decision flies in the face of common business sense because these home made products are often more expensive than the imported goods and of even less quality to boot.
But all this is ignored because of the larger picture. Local industries pay taxes to OUR treasury, give jobs to OUR people and contribute to OUR growth. Sure, regional trade leads to growth but as anyone who works in the Ministry of Finance will tell you, our trade imbalance vis-à-vis our larger neighbors is monumental.
Their goods are flooding our market but ours aren’t doing the same in theirs. If our domestic industry isn’t able to grow it will stagnate and even worse, die. So, here is my suggestion. We have a population of over 8 million people.
These 8 million people are consumers and industry must find a way to get them to ignore the imported products and buy local. But here is the catch. Because of the challenges that our local manufacturers face like high transport costs for raw materials and expensive electricity, their products are costlier than the imported ones.
So, how do you get a consumer to ignore a cheaper product in favor of a more expensive one?
You make that consumer see the bigger picture. You show him how he is not only buying a product, but also an ideal. Paste PROUDLY MADE IN RWANDA BY RWANDANS all over the product and market your product aggressively thus. The conscientious customer will have no choice but to buy local. Just make sure that the product is good.
And here is message to you, fellow patriotic Rwandans, buy Rwandan. It might cost you a few more francs but think of all the benefits. Let’s not be closet patriots; put your wallet where your mouth is.