Warning: you may find this article distasteful if your dream and passion is to become a longtime employee.
One of the enduring legacies of colonialism was the introduction of the cash-economy, which changed wealth in terms of storage and exchange: it was no longer the amount of produce, neither the size of land nor the number of livestock one had but the amount of money one possessed.
The introduction of taxes made matters worse because the colonial authorities demanded cash and nothing else. People had to work for the colonial authorities, the missionaries or private settlers in order to get the money.
Soon a new class emerged: men and women who worked for the Caucasians in the different areas such as cooks, gardeners, porters, guards, cleaners and prostitutes/ concubines.
At the end of each month, these people not only emerged from their places of work with strange things like sweet smelling vegetables, used clothes, cheap blankets, salt, expired goodies like liquor and “the hot cash”, they spoke the incredible language of the “whites”.
Their children soon went to missionary schools and soon they were clerks and translators in courts of law, catechists, nurses, primary school teachers and most importantly soldiers in the army. It was reported that those people knew the “things of the whites” and were understandably revered by their own people.
For example with prior bribery the interpreters could misinterpret what the two parties said, such that the victim could be punished by the white judge while the offender walked away.
It is from this group, that we got the crop of rulers that colonialists left behind to rule Africa in the evening of colonialism. In Belgian Congo, Lumumba was killed and power handed to Joseph Mobutu, whose mother had been a cook for the colonialists.
In Kenya, Dedan Kimathi was killed in preference for Jommo Kenyatta, son of a woman whose father is said to have been the en-route-to-exile Kabalega of Bunyoro kingdom.
In Rwanda Umwami Mutara was killed in preference for Kayibanda, a failed catholic priest turned journalist and in so many African countries the “docile conformists” were left in power for the convenience of future surrogate relationships with former colonial rulers.
This happened virtually in all colonized countries in the period immediately before or after independence with more confusion infused in by the cold war.
As can be seen from the foregoing, the surest way to social and economic transformation for an African in African societies then (and even today) was through education. The educated could go to the land of the whites and see the strange places and even “draw from their pools wisdom”.
The educated soon became stinking rich courtesy of corruption and all parents sent their children to school so that they would get educated, find employment and then get rich. In many African countries, as the number of the educated increased the job opportunities shrunk.
Initially, diploma level was preferred over certificate level, then Bachelor’s degrees were preferred over diplomas and now masters degrees are preferred over Bachelor’s and soon PhDs will be the standard requirement for decent and well paying jobs.
In the case of Rwanda, the influence of the Catholic Church and the ethnic post-independence regimes through the policy of “ethnic balancing”, kept the competition for jobs at low ebb because for the period 1959-1994, the country had less than 2,000 graduates.
Today, the number of graduates per year is double that figure in Rwanda which has created frenzy for scholarships to go for further studies abroad.
And if you have not got it, chances are you do not count because important people in the country have their children studying abroad. A son to a friend of mine in one country in Africa passed his primary school leaving examinations so well, he got a scholarship to study abroad and when he came back, he had a ring in his left ear, injected things in his left upper arm and continuously said “yo men, I aint no gonna f**** with no baddy here” to his unfortunate father who later disowned him.
I am not discouraging people from going for further studies; chances are that if you are going for a Masters degree course abroad, you will come back at the end of one year or two years with an acquired nasal accent, a used car, a wrong and puffed up attitude, “pro-choice” sexual attitude and will pray that a senior job falls vacant in public service or International NGO sector or is created so you can be employed the rest of your working life, not unlike Mobutu’s mother hoping that a colonial family stays longer so that she continues cooking and washing for them.
The legendary (and notorious or great; depending on your point of view) Shaka Zulu in present day South Africa, had one thing that sent him into a killing mood: news that a neighboring clan or tribe had cows. He would send a delegation to demand from the owners that they surrender the cows to him.
And if the response was negative, a lot of blood was bound to be spilled. However, underneath the soil above which his and his army’s feet trod and spilled blood, were tons and tons of diamonds which if dug up and sold, could buy the said cows in peaceful and bloodless trade.
Indeed, many of our young people, and not so young by the way, are “killing for the distant cows while treading on the diamonds underneath the soles of their shoes”.
One thing has helped catapult man from caves to modern houses, saved him from sprinting while delivering messages to clicking at the computer button and the message is delivered thousands of miles away in seconds, improved life through modern treatment and that is creativity by harnessing nature to his use.
What Rwanda needs from you, is creativity so that you can turn what is raw in Rwanda into what can be sold to better life. Did I hear someone say Rwanda has no resources? Mama Mobutu could not have been more creative than you! You are the most important resource Rwanda has (without the Masters or PhD).
Did you know that 80% of the registered taxpayers and private sector employers in Rwanda, that fund your masters or PhD, have never been in a University lecture-room! Before you conclude that starting a business or service in Rwanda, so that you can employ others and pay taxes that can build your nation, is an impossible task, compare it with hunting buffalos or deer with stones and sticks as our forefathers did; injecting yourself with the deadly strain of syphilis so that you can find its characteristics and then find a cure or leading the Rwanda Patriotic Army in 1994 outnumbered by the enemy 1:5, with no logistical supplies, no fall-back position and no expected Calvary on the horizon.
There are majorly two words that are not used by winners and these are “never” and “impossible” and if you think it is impossible to start business without big amounts of monitory capital then you are wrong.
Many people with large capital would rather keep it in foreign countries; so it is the “small starters” who grow with their capital. Will you start your project today? Tomorrow may be late; you may get admitted for further studies which you do not need after all. It will not be easy though it is the best thing you could do for yourself and your nation.
When you start on your “project” write to me so I can share your joy. Good luck!