Can we truly cure ourselves of the dependency syndrome?
Rwanda wants to cure itself of the dependency syndrome that blights so many African societies. Good for us.
In our three-year existence, Focus has always exhorted its readers to for instance feel deeply embarrassed that huge percentages of our national budget are financed by the donor community. Of course we are not claiming we are the only ones concerned about this dependence.
Government leaders have been attending the annual ritual called Umwiherero whereby they assess themselves in terms of performance of their duties and draw up new challenges for themselves. The first day of the Umwiherero President Kagame reiterated the need to work our way out of the dependency trap.
When one thinks of Aid, an old adage immediately comes to mind: he who pays the piper calls the tune. For years we have seen what this means.
It is at the cost of a total loss of dignity to us (Africans in general) that we depend so much on outsiders, no matter how compassionate or good in intention some of them may be.
Their help tends to come tied with all sorts of orders and directives and conditionalities most of which utterly fail to take into account what we know is good for us or what is downright dangerous.
Aid from the West for example comes with direct orders to adopt models of government Westerners themselves have taken centuries to develop but which they then expect us to mimic overnight – as if that would have no adverse effects in societies populated by millions of poor, barely literate or illiterate people who have no understanding how those models of government work.
Having applauded Mr. Kagame and his government’s stated determination to guide us out of the dependency trap to a future where we can determine how we live with no outsiders shoving their square-peg-in-a-round-hole ideas down our throats, now let’s ask the hard questions.
First of all who are the Rwandans that are supposed to work so we can attain our utopian future?
This is a doubly important question, for we have not many natural resources to speak of, we are double landlocked, which is a terrible hindrance to trade, and we are geographically challenged in the small size of our country. All this leaves us only with our people as our greatest resource, something policy makers have all along said they know very well.
So who are those Rwandans who will work so hard and dedicatedly in this collective fight to escape the claws of dependency?
All of us know there are good people in our public offices. And in the Private Sector. The unfortunate fact however is that the incompetent and the simply mediocre far outnumber the capable.
We know there is a drive on now to remedy the problems of incompetence and mediocrity. But how can that be achieved if there aren’t enough capable and competent people to train civil servants or private sector employees to be capable and competent and be sharp and deliver good services to citizens and visitors alike? It is a true Catch 22 situation.
Look at education for instance. Education is the way to train people. But look at a “tertiary institution” like the Mburabuturo-based School of Finance and Banking (SFB). This is a place where students long ago gave up on the idea that you go there to get an education.
Instead the main ambition is to get uruparuro; get a paper qualification so you can use it to look for a job, or use it to deter getting sacked. (Elsewhere in this newspaper we publish description of typical goings on at SFB by one of the student; it makes for depressing reading indeed).
To be fair to SFB however, it isn’t the only “university” around here with that problem.
The Catch 22 situation we are talking about is confounded by a public institution like the Students Financing Agency of Rwanda (SFAR) whose main blight is a director who has taken personalization of office to new heights.
If Rwandans without the means are to get a quality education abroad or overseas to develop a quality workforce for the country, and if for this we have to depend on Sfar and its current leadership, then it is time indeed to kneel down and say a fervent prayer for Rwanda.
We need people dedicated to their fellow citizens in our offices. We need people with a sense of mission of where we want the country to go.
Unfortunately what we have are individuals more interested in office politics and back-stabbing and generally waging ferocious backdoors wars for power and influence, the better to control the flow of resources.
The fight the leadership has on its hands to turn this situation around is a colossal one indeed.
We trust they know this even better than we do.