Miss the train at your own peril

Few of us know what EDPRS II is all about. In fact, a good number of us can hardly outline what EDPRS I was about and what it achieved.
Arthur Asiimwe.
Arthur Asiimwe.

Few of us know what EDPRS II is all about. In fact, a good number of us can hardly outline what EDPRS I was about and what it achieved.

I am told in one of the surveys conducted, some respondents referred to EDPRS 1 as a ‘funding project’ within the Ministry of Finance and at the start of promoting EDPRS II, some ordinary Rwandans thought it was a new micro-finance bank croping up. You would not blame anyone for failing to know what these mouth-full acronyms stand for. Besides, because of the technicalities involved with these programmes, we are rather comfortable to play a passive role and leave it to the framers.

However, this time round, if you are not part of the EDPRS II train, you are likely to be offloaded from the ‘normal’ class of the train into what we used to call the ‘kayola’ class. You will have missed every step of Rwanda’s zealous pursuit of becoming a middle-income nation by 2020 – and thus, left out.

Ambitious as it has been dubbed, the EDPRS II is almost a final lap towards some degree of economic independence for this country. But it can only succeed if each and every Rwandan digests it, owns it and plays an active role towards its implementation.

When you look at the targets that have been set, you might think government is daydreaming.  Skeptics might dismiss it as mere ‘paperwork’ whose content flows well on paper and whose results could only be miraculous.  True, it is very ambitious but attainable given the track record of this administration. 

It seeks to achieve an average growth of 11.5 per cent over the next five years – doubling per capital incomes from the current $640 to about 1240 for the middle-income status.

It calls for acceleration in reduction of poverty levels from the current 45 per cent to 20 per cent and at the same time, eliminate cases of extreme poverty (abatindi). It emphasises the need of getting more and more of our population into productivity by creating at least 1.8 million new off-farm jobs and getting a minimum of about 200,000 new jobs each year.

The five year plan proposes increasing urbanisation by about 35 per cent so that regional towns anchor rural areas by creating a larger market base for their products.  Trade deficit has to be cut by growing our export base by almost 28 per cent per annum.  

These are not simple targets. But like I stated, it is attainable.

It only needs one thing – that we, Rwandans, change the way we do things. It will not be business as usual. We must get our hands out of the pocket to ensure that each individual’s productivity expands many folds.

For example, if our GDP per capita is at $640 today and we need to double it by the year 2020, this means that at the individual level, the results of whatever we do have to increase two-fold over these years.

Let me borrow an example used by an expert from the Ministry of Finance that relates our productivity as a Nation to that of Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola’s global annual turnover, as told by this expert, is equal to our nominal GDP. Across the world, the Coca-Cola brand employs about 5000 staff.  Now compare the productivity of these 5000 employees against our 10.5 million people.

When you break it down, you find that for each (one) Coca-Cola employee, his/her productivity output is equivalent to that of 2000 Rwandans, given that their turnover is equal to our GDP.

It therefore means that productivity capacity as Rwandans is below normal standards – it is simply too low. We need to change our mindsets. We need to change our attitude towards work and learn to value whatever piece of work we engage in. There’s no shame in being a carpenter, a bricklayer, a funeral director – as long as this pays off. 

The mentality of leaving everything to government will not lead us to these targets. We need to think differently, do things, differently. We can’t say we have agriculture growing at 11 percent alone and be comfortable with it. 

The other key sectors like service, industry, manufacturing, also have to grow at a double-digit rate. On the government side, there must be better coordination – not a situation where sectors seem to work in isolation or are strangers to each other. 

You find that a person in agriculture doesn’t know what his colleague in Minicom does even if a programme like ‘hanga umurimo,’ targets both sectors.

Bottom line, for EDPRS II to succeed, we simply need to change the way we work, think and function both as a government and a people. Most important, we have to own it. You miss this moment; you miss the train to the middle income status we seek for ourselves.

Twitter: @aasiimwe

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