Tag Archives: economy

Tanzania’s isolation in the East African Community

8 Oct


In June this year, the presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda met in Kampala and then announced a plan with definite timelines to speed up integration in the East African Community. They have since met again in Mombasa and will be in Kigali soon.

There were two reactions to this development.

The first was that the three were creating a two-lane integration process – one for those who wanted to sprint and another for dawdlers.

The second was a signal that if the other two could not make up their mind about how they wanted the East African Community to move forward, they risked being left behind.

In both cases, depending on where one stood on the issue, the action of the three countries was said to be leading to the possible isolation of Tanzania and Burundi or to pulling them along to join the others.

Tanzania shrugged and scoffed at such suggestions, saying they were inconsequential and that the trio could go ahead with their plans. Some Tanzanians even claimed that not much could be done without their country since it was the regional centre of gravity.

That initial disdainful dismissal of what has come to be known as the tripartite arrangement has given way to realism. Now Tanzania and Burundi are chafing at being left out by the other three partner states. The prospect of isolation, or at any rate being left behind, is looming.

Indication that this change of attitude is happening came from a recent meeting of the East African Council of Ministers in Arusha.

A lot of good may come from the decisions of Presidents Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta to go it alone. They are now likely to pull along the other reluctant partners after all.

In many senses both the actions of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and the new response by Burundi and Tanzania had to happen at some point. Exasperation among East African Community enthusiasts with Tanzania for its slow pace towards integration was bound to trigger some reaction or other.

It is not a coincidence that the three countries chose to address the very areas where Tanzania has been less cooperative: single customs territory, non-tariff barriers, free movement of people, goods, services and capital, infrastructure and political federation.

For long the excuse of the Tanzanian leadership was that their citizens should not be stampeded into faster integration because there was no urgency and in any case they needed time to grasp the concept.

As it now turns out, that was only a pretext. Ordinary Tanzanians now recognise that the other three partner states are determined to go ahead without them. The prospect of achieving what they have set out to do is very real. The likelihood of isolation, or at the very least being left behind, is also becoming real and is being voiced by ordinary people.

Politicians are now picking it up because it is becoming a serious issue and likely to make them climb down from their arrogant position.

This change of attitude has obviously been forced on the Tanzanian leadership. They now realise they might lose out if the other countries establish a single customs territory and also start using a single-tourist visa. And despite repeated denials, plans to build the oil and transport infrastructure in the northern corridor will significantly affect the volume of cargo along the central corridor.

Already, there are examples of a climb down. Tanzania unilaterally hiked charges on Rwandan-registered trucks ferrying transit goods through its territory. Rwanda retaliated and raised charges on Tanzanian trucks. Tanzania cried foul but in the end backed down and reduced the charges they had set without consultation.

The decision was not, of course, a result of good neighbourly feelings. It was the product of hard-nosed business calculations. Tanzania has more trucks doing business from the port of Dar es Salaam to Kigali and on to northern Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was therefore bound to lose from a protracted tariff war.

The same considerations are probably coming into play with regard to the tripartite arrangements between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The fear of loss and isolation will make the Tanzanian leadership find their East African feet and recognise that it is in their best interest to travel together with their partners and at the same pace.

They might yet rediscover the integrationist spirit of their predecessors. Historically, ideologically and even in practical terms, Tanzania was the most integrationist of the East African countries. This owed in large measure to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s Pan-Africanism and de-ethnicisation of the country, and the fact that the country was the home of nearly all liberation movements in East, Central and Southern Africa.

About ten years ago, all that began to change. We began to see the development of an inward looking nationalism and dangerous flashes of xenophobia.

That could yet change again and the previous enthusiasm for a united East Africa return. The fear of isolation and loss of business may bring that about.


Self-belief and the Rwandan miracle

30 Apr

Nothing empowers people like self-belief. With loads of it, you can move mountains or turn deserts into fertile plains. Even the most fatalistic get so inspired by the feeling that they are able to act and have impact and cause real change.

Conversely, nothing is as stultifying as the absence of faith in the ability to make anything happen. The feeling of inability is so numbing that people are literally frozen into a permanent state of inaction. They are resigned to anything ever happening for them.

These contrasting states tell the story of Rwanda of the past fifty years. They represent the different fortunes of the country resulting from two different philosophies of the management of society.

The first is the current state in which Rwandans feel confident enough to change their lives and turn around the fortunes of their country. It is the period whose lessons about how they have done it are much sought after from across the world.

This is the period when the philosophy of management has changed from ruling to leading, from giving orders to offering directions about what should be done. It is the time when people are given encouragement, not harangued, in which the appeal is to their sense of self-worth, self-belief and own ability.

In almost all cases of calls to action, the message is carried in slogans or memorable phrases that capture the spirit of the moment. Slogans by definition are about two things – a rejection of the status quo and therefore call for change, or satisfaction with the current state of affairs and so a call for conservation. But whichever position, the effect is the lighting of the fire of belief in their ability to alter or maintain the situation, often for the better.

We all remember the effect of US President Barack Obama’s  “yes we can” and “change we can believe in” slogans in the last presidential campaign. Closer to home, in Kenya, ”Harambee” had a strong impact until politicians abused it.

In Rwanda today, we may have no classical slogans, but there are plenty of memorable words that have the same effect. Agaciro (dignity or self-worth) is probably one of  the most recognisable words in Kinyarwanda today, used by all – the mighty and lowly – and whose meaning is the same for all. But most significant is the recognition that it is only they, not anyone else, who can bestow agaciro on themselves by their actions and attitudes.

Then there are others which urge Rwandans to achieve the most they can, to extend themselves to the limits of their potential, not to be content with the ordinary or the mediocre. And so we often hear President Paul Kagame urging Rwandans to “be the best you can be”.

Similarly, the president has on many occasions discouraged dependency and instead pushed for taking charge of their lives by appealing to the people’s sense of pride. He asks whether they are happy living off other people’s left-overs, or being looked after by others when God gave them so much.

There is no doubt that these exhortations inspire people to apply themselves some more so as to be masters of their own situation. And they work because they are encouragements worth taking up, not because they are edicts that you ignore at your peril. Persuasion and not coercion is, in any case, the essence of good leadership.

It has not always been like this. There was a time when Rwandans  were lulled into the stupor of inaction. It was a time when those in power actually ruled. They ordered and directed that things be done in a particular manner or there would be dire consequences. The people were made to sing and dance to tunes composed at party headquarters and to repeat slogans coined by the head of state that extolled unproductive agriculture as if it was a virtue.

In any event, the slogans were so unvaried that they became clichés incapable of inspiring the people to greater useful action. Little wonder, then, that there was no qualitative improvement in the Rwandans’ lives. They did nothing for self-belief. Actually official pronouncements often discouraged initiative of any sort and denigrated any effort at personal or national improvement. Instead, they lulled the people into dependency and taught them to expect and be grateful to handouts from supposed do-gooders.

It is from this stultifying state that we have been recovering and distancing ourselves for nearly two decades now.

That distance is evident in President Kagame’s interactions with citizens. The message at these events is about doing more, being better and rising to a higher level  – individually and collectively. It speaks to human aspirations to a better life. The result is what has been called the Rwandan miracle. Put another way, the miracle comes from the belief that it is possible and within our means to alter our lives. That is the meaning of empowerment

Mining: the forgotten sector of Rwanda’s economy

27 Feb

So we have gold – and probably plenty of it! That’s the news The New Times broke in its edition of 27th February. There are gold deposits in parts of western and northern Rwanda. Their existence is not in doubt. That has been known for a while. What is not exactly certain are the quantities involved. That’s what several companies are doing – prospecting in the areas to ascertain the exact amount of gold there.

In many ways this is good news.

First, the picture of a resource-poor, tiny country that has often been portrayed is not entirely correct. We have minerals and probably other natural resources under our thousand hills after all.

The news about the gold, which citizens have always mined, albeit using unsophisticated methods, is an addition to other well-known minerals that have been mined in this country for a long time. I have heard about casseterite and wolfram mining in Rwanda all my life. It was done long before I was born, and is still being done now. In recent years, coltan, that has also always been here, has gained prominence with the revolution in the communications industry.

These minerals are a significant part of the economy. Only last year, it is reported, earnings from export of minerals topped US $158.8 million, making the sector second in foreign earnings to tourism.

Clearly, there are considerable quantities of minerals in this country. And there may be other natural resources we do not know about, yet. We already know about methane gas in Lake Kivu. What other gases or resources lie beneath our many lakes and plains? Abundant deposits of peat sit on the surface of marshes and valleys. What else may stretch deeper below the surface?

We will know in good time. For the moment, though, we can only speculate and hope that these beautiful hills harbour more than their steep cones, beautiful terraces and the valleys that meander between them. Which is why the repeated reminder that we do not have much in the way of natural resources and should therefore do everything to develop the only resource we are sure of – the human sort – remains valid.

And even if it wasn’t, the rationale behind it is still compelling. We still need to invest in human capital to work the natural resource and make it profitable. We do not have to look far to see how abundance of natural wealth does not necessarily translate into greater national wealth. The people remain dirt poor in spite of the untold riches in their soil. To escape from the biting poverty, some of them have gone to Europe and America where they offer themselves for hire as hoodlums to harass citizens of other countries (like Rwanda) who are getting themselves out of poverty through sheer grit and hard work.

In the past, mineral exports did not represent a sizeable portion of the nation’s GDP, perhaps due to underreporting by individuals and groups that had vested interests in keeping the sector in the shadows. Or perhaps due to inefficiency.

For whatever reason the mining sector was kept out of the limelight, that did not wipe away the presence of minerals in commercially exploitable quantities.

So, why did mining in Rwanda remain forgotten for a long time despite its economic significance?

That’s the second reason the news about gold deposits is good.

The reason is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda’s mining industry has been overshadowed by that of its giant western neighbour. In the popular imagination, the DRC is reputed to have minerals strewn along village paths, or falling from the sky with the generous rains, or washed on river banks for anyone to pick. Every rock is supposed to harbour some gem or other. They have so much that the little country to the east was left with nothing, and a magical line was drawn between the two countries – with minerals to the west and none to the east.

And so if any minerals are found in Rwanda, they can only have been stolen from the DRC. There can be no other explanation even when the evidence is there before the eyes.

There is, of course, a more sinister motive behind wilful blindness. There are some people for whom the progress that Rwandans have made without being beholden to them is an unbearable and unacceptable reality. They will do anything to deny it is the work of Rwandans using their own resources and effort. But because they cannot erase the fact, they seek to dismiss it by ascribing the progress to theft of Congolese wealth.

Psychologists call this phenomenon, transfer of guilt. Mineral-rich DRC has been plundered and impoverished by foreign interests, from King Leopold of Belgium to his latter-day successors from Europe and America – governments, corporations, NGOs, churches – the lot. To ease their collective conscience, they project and transfer their guilt to others, especially those they think are little, powerless countries, like Rwanda.

Now, with discoveries of more mineral deposits and more open reporting of mining activities in Rwanda, it will increasingly be difficult to find a convenient carrier of their guilt. Like the popular Swahili Christian hymn says, siku za mwisho kila mtu atabeba mzigo wake mwenyewe (loosely translated as; on judgement day, everyone will carry their own burden)

Why there are no praise songs in Rwanda: there are no Tsars

14 Feb

There are many things Rwandans have achieved for which they should be singing their own praises. But they don’t. There is no fuss, no celebration. In fact, you notice a deliberate effort to play down any sort of success. It is business as usual as if the spectacular achievements made in the last few years are an everyday occurrence.

And there is a long list of them. On the economic front, the country has been posting annual growth figures averaging 8% for a decade. It has maintained single digit inflation rate when the rest of the East African region records double digits – in some cases nearly four times that in Rwanda. Various reports continue to point to Rwanda as one of the top countries in which it is easy to do business and the best investment destination in Africa.

In the less easy to measure justice and reconciliation area, there has been equally remarkable progress. Thousands of cases that would have taken conventional courts several centuries to clear have been disposed of by a uniquely Rwandan justice system. And in the short space of ten years they have achieved what Christians have been preaching for two thousand years with limited success – forgiveness, reconciliation and tolerance.

Of course, there have been dissatisfied people as there are in any judicial system anywhere in the world. Humankind is yet to invent a justice system that satisfies all parties. The only measure so far about how good the system is lies in the degree of fairness of the system.

After so many years of denying that this country has a fair justice system, many countries are now changing their attitude. They now believe that conditions for fair trial exist and are repatriating Rwandans suspected of genocide and other crimes against humanity for trial.

In the social sector, more children have access to education and stay in school much longer. The health of Rwandans has improved tremendously.

On gender issues and attendant socio-economic impact, the country is way up there.

The list goes on.

Overall, Rwandans’ lives have improved. They know it. Yet no one is singing praises about it – not even when there is indisputable evidence as there was last week.

A week ago today, the government published the results of the Household Living Conditions and Demographic and Health surveys that confirmed that livelihoods had indeed improved. Both surveys revealed that in many cases Rwandans had surpassed their own projections in reducing poverty and raising living standards. Impressive was the word on everyone’s lips. In fact Mr Yusuf Murangwa, the Director General of the National Institute of Rwanda, used the word more than five times in a thirty-minute presentation of the reports.

Now, that was unusual because Rwandan officials are not in the habit of using such laudatory words. Statisticians rarely use non-measurable expressions. That it happened in this case can only mean that the figures released in the reports were such that they wowed even the usually unflappable numbers people.

And still, no one is singing about it, or claiming credit for the miracle.

Such modesty is not common in most parts of the world. Indeed many are baffled that no one comes forward to claim the prize for the miracle. They can’t understand why the people of this country don’t trumpet their extra-ordinary achievements from the country’s thousand hilltops.

And it is not because they are superstitious that praising a good thing might attract evil and turn all the good work to nought. The people behind the success don’t know much about superstition. They are more familiar with figures and projections based on them, plans and timelines, various measurement instruments and the latest technology. Not for them the hazy world of spirits, good or evil.

This is where Rwanda is different – and perhaps the reason for success. There are no Tsars (or Tsarinas) who rule over some little empires in Rwanda. Of course, there are real people behind the achievements. But what we see is the collective effort of politicians and technocrats at every level, and above all, ordinary citizens. Everyone plays their allotted role. Each is a cog in the wheel of progress and all drive that wheel.

Rwandans also seem to have taken to heart the teaching about humility. To them all achievements are merely work in progress. Songs will only be composed when the country finally moves into higher income levels, when they can say with satisfaction” mission accomplished” But I suspect even then they will not be really satisfied and will be pushing for more.

This is the Rwandan way outsiders don’t understand. It is a society of all for all. No one stands taller than others. None is indispensable. Everyone matters.

This is why so-called experts and commentators on Africa get it wrong when they start talking about cracks in the military or ruling party when they hear that a general has been arrested or a top politician sacked. They tend to interpret these actions by applying the familiar experience in other places where such people are untouchable, where they hold the country to ransom because they have appropriated certain functions and powers of the state. It is different here.

Rwanda is an enterprise where citizens have equal shareholding. It is not controlled by a few majority shareholders.  That’s why there are no individual claims to the miracle that the country is, and why there are no praise songs to such individuals, or any praise songs at all. The push for greater profits for the enterprise continues

From Rwanda with lessons – poverty can be rolled back

7 Feb

Small country with big ambitions. They can’t achieve them. That is how Rwanda’s plans to move quickly out of poverty and attain a middle income status are often dismissed by those who claim to know all about Africa’s development patterns and potential. They think they know the familiar pitfalls and believe that Rwanda will surely trip over one.

When you point out that there is progress and even show the physical evidence, they will grudgingly admit it, but quickly add that is only in the capital, and even then within a small elite.

 It now turns out that those ambitions are, after all, realisable and, actually, not big enough for the little country. Rwandans want more and believe they can achieve more. And all indications are that this can be done. Incontrovertible evidence – both physical and statistical – exists.

Of course Rwandans have never had doubts about this. And now there is hard evidence to back that belief. Two surveys – the Household Living Conditions and Demographic and Health surveys – published today show the extent to which poverty has been reduced and living standards raised in the last five years. Close to all targets were met, and in some instances, exceeded.

A few figures will illustrate this point.

It had been projected that people living in poverty would fall from 56.9% of the population in 2005/6 to 46% in 2012/13. As it is, the number had reduced to 44.9% by 2011.The reduction at national level was by an impressive 12 percentage points. This fact becomes significant when compared with the previous five years when the cut in poverty levels was by a mere two percentage points.

 In the same period, figure of people living in extreme poverty was nearly halved, tumbling from 40% to 24%.

Significantly, the reduction was registered in all the provinces of the country, with the Northern Province chalking up the highest decline.

Statisticians will tell you that these are very remarkable figures by any standards. Naturally, policy makers are very excited, with good reason, too. They can point to having achieved and even surpassed their planned objectives. But no one is bragging – at least not in public. They are level-headed enough to know that there is still a long way to go.

According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the reduction in poverty and corresponding rise in living standards is attributable to a number of factors.

The big one is the successful implementation of the government’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Within the strategy improvements in agriculture loom large. Increased production owing to land consolidation and crop intensification (growing of a crop suited to a particular area), more use of fertilisers and other inputs and better harvest management have led to self-sufficiency in food and left more for the market. The report notes that there has been a growing shift from subsistence production to increased commercialisation of agriculture across the country.

Increased production and commercialisation have in turn led to a growing agro-business sector.

All of these translate into more incomes for Rwandans.

Secondly, jobs offering higher wages have been created in other sectors of the economy outside the farm sector.

And as the Demographic and Health Survey over the same period shows, a slowing population growth – owing in part to falling fertility rates, increased use of contraception and education – has contributed to higher living standards.

Other factors include a continuing shift from living in scattered to planned settlements (imidugudu). Over the last five years, the percentage of people living in planned settlements has more than doubled. This means that there more people have easier access to services. For instance, availability of safe water and sanitation rose significantly, and access to electricity as a source of lighting increased more than two-fold, Planned settlements, coupled with improved infrastructure, means that in nearly all cases, distance to a health facility or school have reduced greatly.

Clearly, Rwanda’s development ambitions are within reach if what we see every day and now have been shown today is anything to go by. And we do not need anybody’s approval or permission to set our bar high. If we have the ability to clear it and set it even higher, what’s wrong with that?

Today also sees the launch of the second phase of EDPRS – the overall framework for poverty reduction and economic development. Our planners and policy makers will have learnt from the first and set the bar at an appropriate height. But as it is, there is much to smile about and more to look forward to.

So all the dismissive talk about pie-in-the-sky ambitions will not worry Rwandans one little bit. They are probably going to be concerned about the size of the pie that they can and will surely lay their hands on. Even the sky is not too high

Marriage is a thriving business

12 Jul

In most of the world, especially the developed parts, marriage as an institution is under siege and continues to decline. It has become a subject of intense discussion among academics, religious leaders and social commentators. Statistics show that in the United States first marriages have plunged fifty per cent in the last forty years. Comparable figures obtain in other developed countries.

In developing countries, on the other hand, marriage is alive and well and growing. In fact in Rwanda, it is a thriving business – literally.

It used to be that every Saturday you were likely to trip on a newly-wed couple and their entourage in the streets of Kigali. That largely remains so, but changes are beginning to occur. You are now equally likely to bump into a marriage procession on Sunday or Friday. Such has been the competition for the most sought-after venues that many of them are booked more than three months in advance, forcing couples to shift their weddings to other days of the week.

Whatever else you may say about the increasing rate of marriage in Rwanda– and I am sure there are many views – you must admit that it is good business. Over the last two decades it has spawned a huge industry with many linkages in which large profits have been made from minimal investment.

Let us start with the venue for the reception party that is often hired for upwards of five hundred thousand francs for a two-hour celebration. It started as a simple hall at a church, school or social centre. Then it spread to banquet halls of some of the plush hotels. Finally enterprising people built their own halls for wedding receptions.

Venues for marriage celebrations have since diversified. Anyone who could get a sizeable patch of land and pitch a tent on it got in on the act. But that can sometimes be too closed and stifling.

Something had to be done for those who love the open air. Those with the nose for business got a similar patch of land, fenced it off and turned it into an attractive garden that hosts wedding parties and other outdoor entertainment.

There are venues to suit every pocket – from upscale areas accessible only if you have private means of transport to roadside halls that can be reached by public transport.

The venue is just one. There are other related services that are all too eager to cash in on the itch to get hitched. Nearly all people still think that a marriage is not such without a church ceremony – never mind that most couples were last in the hallowed place when they were getting baptised. I have seen priests embarrassed at the inability of the couple exchanging vows and those accompanying them to church (like they would to any swearing ceremony) to follow the rituals of the mass.

Now, the church charges a fee for indulging the couple’s love for a worthy public spectacle. So does the choir that serenades them – and the florist and decorators at the church.

Then there are the many bridal parlours dotted all across town whose business is to make the bride appear like a doll at a huge cost. These are matched by sops that seem to sprout at every corner to rent wedding-related things like traditional attire, items of Rwandan decor and modern things like plastic chairs.

No wedding celebration would be complete without a cultural dance troupe to lend traditional colour to the event. There are so many of these that, in a bid to make each unique and more marketable, they try to outdo one another in innovation and adaptation that often results in a distortion of the genuine traditional Rwandan dance. And for this they are paid handsomely.

Perhaps one of the most innovative and enterprising creations of the modern marriage ceremony has been the emergence of a new professional group of paid MCs and praise singers. Those with a gift of the garb are now guaranteed a weekly – may soon become daily – income as masters of ceremony. The more poetically creative can be assured of a big package from singing praises to unseen cattle – well, envelopes are not exactly invisible, but what they contain is.

For cultural enthusiasts, this must be something to cheer. Here is an attempt to preserve some of the Rwandan poetic and rhetorical traditions, albeit for selfish reasons.

Do not ask me if all these groups and individuals pay taxes on the professional fees they charge.

Of course there are other businesses that make big profits from weddings and pay taxes – Bralirwa, for instance, and the hotels and restaurants with outside catering services.

Where does all this leave our obvious need to limit our population? With the average marriage age of between 20 and 24 years for women and 25 and 29 for men, the more pessimistic might see a Malthusian nightmare ahead. The more hopeful might count on the post-marriage reality setting in to counter the euphoria of the event and advise a more realistic course – like not exceeding three children.

In the meantime, marriage remains a thriving business.

Prosperity is a right; poverty is not

31 May

One year is a long enough period to change the economic and social landscape of a place that it becomes almost unrecognisable. A great many things can happen in that time.

In May 2010, we wrote in this column (‘When a problem is a good thing’, The New Times, 18th May, 2010) about a problem of surplus production in Eastern Province that had farmers worried. They had answered the government’s call for increased production too well. The cry then was, ‘milk, milk everywhere but not a franc to be got’.

That was a year ago. Today what you hear is not a woeful lament about useless plenty, but a joyful song about bounty and benefits. And the evidence of the extent of the twin sources of the new song is visible.

President Paul Kagame said as much when he met the citizens of Nyagatare District on Friday, 27th May, 2011. He told them that they looked healthy and well turned out – no doubt the result of increased wealth. They in turn told him that was not all. They pointed to better housing which they said could be seen from the new, gleaming, iron sheet roofs of the many houses that dotted the countryside.

So what is the source of the better social well-being of the people? Simple. Better prices for what they produce.

Last year a litre of milk was selling at 80 francs – often for much less. Even at that low price, there was no guarantee that all the milk they produced would be bought. There was a disconnect between production and the market which would inevitably have led to disincentives for farmers to produce more.

Today, a litre of milk goes for 200 francs and there is assurance that all the milk produced will be bought. Prices are predicted to rise in the dry period (July-September) when production decreases. At today’s rates, average incomes for small-scale farmers from milk production stand at about 200,000 francs per month. The least amount of money the smallest farmer who produces ten litres a day can expect is 60,000 francs, up from 24,000 a year ago. In the last 45 days farmers had 176 million francs from selling milk, according to one of them. Small amounts you might say, but still significant in the circumstances.

These changes in individual farmers’ earnings are reflected in the district’s revenues. While a year ago the district raised 30 million francs in a period of 45 days, the amount for the corresponding period this year has increased more than ten-fold to 305 million francs. Citizens’ savings in SACCOs that were nearly non-existent a few years ago now stand at 358 million francs and are projected to triple by 2013.

Similar progress is taking place in agricultural production. Most marshlands in the country are being turned into rice fields whose production will reduce rice imports, feed the people, save the country foreign exchange and earn farmers big incomes. For other crops, there will be increased use of irrigation to boost production.  As President Kagame told citizens of Nyagatare District, profitable farming cannot be based on chance – on whether there is rain or not. It must be possible to produce with or without rain.

The changes in the livelihood of rural citizens have a greater impact beyond just better prices and higher living standards. Yes, they are creating a relatively well-off class able to satisfy their basic needs. But soon that will not be enough. They will begin demanding more than the basic things. They will aim at controlling the means to safeguard their new-found wealth. Which means they will inevitably want greater and more active participation in governance and economic management processes, and in the maintenance of stability.

That should be good news for all those groups who are in the habit of delivering sermons on democracy, political space and human rights. Here is an emerging class that should make their work easier. I am not sure that this will be welcome news to them, though. It will probably make them angrier and trigger more sermons. Were new found economic power to give Rwandans a stronger voice in the way their country is organised as it surely will, the various preachers would be rendered irrelevant. They will fight tooth and nail to keep their place because their interest is not greater democracy for Rwandans but more visibility and assured place in the sun for themselves.

Historically, groups have organised politically around common economic interests and brought about change that protects those interests. Political organisation and change have always grown from within. They have never been a result of external instructions. Where that has happened as in our own history, the results have been disastrous because the premises of political organisation were false. Yet we are still getting directives about how to organise our society, what areas to put emphasis on, and so on.

Creation of wealth is apparently not a priority for the unordained preachers. For Rwandans it is. And they have shown it is more than wealth. It gives them dignity and a voice in the affairs of their country.

That wealth is being created and Rwandans do not live in abject poverty as some fugitive Rwandans wish is clear.  The people of Nyagatare and other districts have sent a strong rebuke to those who thrive on the poverty of others. As President Kagame so aptly put it, poverty is not a right; prosperity is.