By TANGWE Abraham*
Most African Countries that attain independence in the 1960s are about fifty three years old or so. During this period some of them underwent serious transformations or a change in their life fortunes. Those who were under white minority like South Africa for instance witnessed widespread developmental strides due to belligerent interest. Others with little or no resources, haven witnessed war and at times genocide (like the case of Rwanda, 1994) have by sheer luck of being blessed with leaders with a vision having their people at heart been transformed beyond all imaginations.
Paul Kagame as President of this land locked Country is one of Africa’s unsung hero and perhaps the general blackout on him is due to his radical stance on issues of Africa’s relation with the West and the open window he has given to Africans coming into Rwanda for whatever reason. In fact, you do not need to apply for visa as an African arriving Rwanda but rather issued an entry visa in less than five minutes at the airport upon arrival. In Kigali, the capital, you are greeted by a degree of cleanliness that can only be matched with those of the cleanest cities in the West. The level of organization is a veritable marvel to the eyes.
What remains striking is the way little things are done in a way that matters. A key area is petty business organization in Rwanda. Barbers are organized with a unique accountant who handles all monetary issues. Restaurants selling food have cashiers with electronic machines connected to the central unit of the Rwandan revenue collections unit and the machines given to all petty businesses for free by the revenue department. When I sought to know the reason, I was simply told that it was a way for the revenue collectors to track income and use it to assess payment of taxes. Is that not interesting?
In other words, you cannot undercut taxes as there is a tracking system to know what comes in and goes out. It is not error free but it is a big step in the right direction for a Country struggling to emerge. Also, taxes are declared and paid online. This is quite intriguing as the element of pilfering and corruption in this case is checked 100%. How many African Countries have reached this stage? This is closely linked with the payment of bills using Visa cards in most cases. Do you need a soothsayer to tell you that such measures make corruption anathema here?
That is not all. It is the only Country in the world where big national meetings like the last government retreat grouping the President, ministers, governors and mayors took place in a school premises and not a posh hotel owned by a western multinational conglomerate. The reason is simply that instead of wasting hard earn resources to rent expensive hotels leading to capital flight, it is preferable according to the President to hold such meetings in school premises where all the officials stay and pay the money to the schools to be used to improve on their infrastructure to host such meetings better in the future.
Away from that is the issue of roads in Rwanda. Most of the secondary roads are paved with stones and sand just as can be seen in some western towns. The interesting element is that this is the handiwork of prisoners! They are used to construct roads and the money that would have been used to pay big western companies is rather paid to the prison authorities to improve on the conditions of the prisoners..
This is a very brief idea of some of the marvels of this Country of a thousand hills. With this, do you think we need western loans to have a change of condition in Africa? What must be noted here is that most of our leaders lack the political will to move their people out of the shackles of biting poverty. They enjoy the spoils of power much more than working for the welfare of their people. It’s a pity that we are still where we are because of greed and the lack of determined leaders who can look in the face of our western partners and tell them to their face that we need a fresh lease of life as a people. To them, leading is not easy but of course, this can only be the thoughts of people with little minds still living in a land of dreamful ease.
The example of Rwanda is telling and it is plausible that they African leaders should be humble enough to learn from those of them with very bright ideas like the President of Rwanda and stop being haughty and basking only in the art of brazen thievery and misrule.
* Tangwe recently visited Rwanda and can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org