“For forms of government let fools contest; whatever is best administered is the best”– Alexander Pope.
To the realists, it is often said that “the end justifies the means”. Going by this and from the above quote, inferably, the best approach to a country’s development is that which works for them. In my last article, I pointed out the suitable approach of development recommended to African countries by a renowned Prof. of Political Economy, Late. Claude Ake. This approach is what he calls the endogenous paradigm of development.
Though the concept of development, in theory, has been constructively westernized, experiences in the third world countries have shown that implementation of western-borrowed developmental ideas in solving third worlds’ underdevelopment crises has not worked out perfectly. While there may not be anything wrong with the western ideas, the incompatibility of it with prevalent peculiarities of African countries, particularly Nigeria, has proven to be problematic.
Consequently, a mixture of homegrown ideas and western ideas seem to be a better approach.
The case of China easily comes to mind here.
Nigeria and South Africa are arguably the biggest economies in the continent of Africa, but the recent transformation of Rwanda in the last couple of decades is noteworthy. Rwanda, a country that was ravished by the 1994 genocide, is fast becoming the new kid on the block, with the kind of rapid socio-economic transformation under the current President, Paul Kagame. The Rwandan genocide, from every historical account and, to a large extent, caused an immeasurable degradation to the Rwandan economy and other spheres of nationhood. It is scholarly estimated that 500, 000 to 600,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu were slaughtered and thus leading to the lack of economic manpower after the genocide.
It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that whatever Rwanda has achieved as a country, started from 1994 till date; for the country was in any measure a failed state before then. To be more specific, the Rwandan transformation, in any case, began from the year 2000, when the incumbent president was first elected into office.
This is simply because of the fact that political stability returned to the country beginning from 2000.
Coming from the ashes of genocide, building a post-genocide Rwanda needed a meticulous and homegrown approach that could unify the people and eliminate all kinds of divisive tendencies. Thus, the Rwandan government came up with unification policies. The national unification policies are based on the strategy and interpretation that, essentially, the country’s history was devoid of ethnicity before the arrival of the colonialists.
It primarily promotes the notion of collective identity, which is no longer based on ethnicity but on the civil identity of all citizens. Very importantly, inciting statements and any kind of discriminatory attitude that reminds the people of their genocide experience is severely punishable.
The methodological approach of nation-building as it is properly conceived and applied in Rwanda is a collective one. Citizens between the ages of 18-65, except those unfit to participate, commit themselves to community service across the country on every last Saturday of the month. This is commonly known among the locals as “Umuganda”. Every community identifies a new public works problem to tackle each month. This kind of community service, over the years, has helped Rwanda in keeping their environment very clean.
Thanks to this sense of responsibility amongst her citizens, the capital of the country, Kigali, was declared by the UN-Habitat as one of Africa’s cleanest in 2008.
When compared to Nigeria, the absence of collective participation for nation-building is one of the fundamental challenges that has impeded on our development. At every sphere of our nationhood, there seemingly appears to be a disconnection between the leaders and the led.
This disconnection, as a matter of fact, makes it very difficult for many to believe in any policy meant for national unification. Not just this, our overtly inclinations make citizens more loyal to their agenda than the national one.
Technologically, Rwanda has also experienced some remarkable transformations. The very first “made in Africa” Smartphone comes from Rwanda. The Mara phone which was launched in October 2019 is manufactured in an industrial area in the capital city, Kigali.
According to Paul Kimonyo, Rwanda is one of the countries in Africa with the best and cheapest internet infrastructure. During the Covid-19 lockdown, the technological ingenuity of Rwanda, once again, came into bare. Human-size robots were used in the clinics to take patients’ temperatures and to deliver supplies.
The use of robots, essentially, reduced the risk of health workers contacting the virus.
Within the lens through which the western world view development, Rwanda may not yet have escaped from the tag of an underdeveloped country, but they are on a very good trajectory path to development, albeit rather slowly. And, interestingly, though their President is perceived to have dictatorial tendencies, the endogenous paradigm of development he has adopted so far, is working.
So, the thrust of this article about the transformation of Rwanda and China (a country that was examined last week) is that development is usually not unilinear, meaning that there is no one way to development.
In other words, the strategy that works for country A may not completely work out for country B if the same strategy is directly borrowed and implemented without any meaningful consideration to the peculiarities of the internal environment. However, this is where policy modification is very necessary.
Rwanda has shown that a country can progress regardless of how previously polarized they were. Indeed, it is all about having a sense of common purpose and looking inwardly to the unifying factors, rather than the divisive ones. If a country that was ravished by genocide can form a front and move ahead, why can’t Nigeria? All we need to do as a country is to build bridges amongst the diverse ethnic groups that make up the country to move forward.
Above all, we may not make any kind of progress if we keep to our usual ‘copy and paste’ with policies meant to national transformation.