The quote, published more than a century ago, has a way it resonates among Rwandans, all around the world, and can be used in defining Rwanda and the leadership of the country.
In much of the world media, the country was usually referred to as “a tiny, central African state, the size of…”(then put the name of a very small American state) …and then they would continue with detailing the dark history of 1994.
But Rwanda, right after liberation, refused to be a hostage of that bad history.
Today, Rwanda not only personifies hope before the eyes of the world, it is demonstrating that big ideas can be nurtured from a flicker into glowing success, using the little resources available. What matters is the spirit.
When it was recently announced that a $70m basilica is to be constructed in Kibeho holy land in Nyaruguru district, and set to be one of the biggest in the world, my mind raced through a number of mega projects that the country embarked on, implemented and completed, some of which are the biggest in the region.
But what intrigues me, even more, is how these ideas, the idea of starting, no matter how big, are permeating among ordinary Rwandans. It is not uncommon today to find mega projects in millions of dollars in the hands of individuals in the private sector. When the government invests in multi-million dollar projects, it, in a way, boosts the confidence of the private investors to also seed their money in different sectors of the economy.
The spirit of entrepreneurship, as a result, has also been cultivated among rural Rwandans. Cooperatives have become vehicles of entrepreneurship through which individual and group capacities have been enhanced. Today, cooperatives of ordinary Rwandans own multi-storey, multi-billion buildings in Kigali and other towns around the country, agro-processing plants, transport companies, livestock, handicraft projects, among a plethora of others.
Farmers in villages, picking a leaf from the leadership of the country, have taken to that practice of taking risks, investing in small businesses; no matter how small, and this is gradually transforming their livelihoods. Many rural Rwandans that had never thought of themselves as potential investors [do no mind the size], have tested the waters and are now tasting the fruits, getting even more inspired by intense enthusiasm and their neighbors’ successes, neighbors that were once poor but have now got their lives better through those small investments.
What I am saying is, there is a top-down inspiration-top leader inspire and guide the people, and horizontal osmosis of ideas and zeal among peasants-one peasant inspires and ignites another. Where you would find envy and jealousy among peasant communities in yesteryears, today you find cooperation and sharing experiences.
But beyond the spirit of ‘money investments’, the RPF-led government has succeeded in investing in mindset change; with big fights against genocide ideology; still, leading from the front; taking good where it had never stepped before –geographically and in the minds of the people – talking to all people with one mellifluous educated voice of looking to the future with steadfast focus, empowering and actually giving them (all) the torch to light in the darkest of corners so that they do not stumble, nay, fall again; leading from the front, telling and showing the followers how possible it is – to build the Rwanda we all want.
That is a very big spirit; so big that it surpasses the physical size of the country, for it is a resource in itself that has become a Rwandan currency.