Rwanda is not working
When PR takes over….
A nation is on the way to doom, when you seek the glory and approval of outsiders, you cease to do it for yourself. We are a nation that now lives on PR, on the ambrosia of praise and false flattery. When a Western media outlet does a story on Rwanda, it is just looking for fodder to fill its pages, they don’t love us deep down as a people. A minister is judged by how many articles their ministry generated in the international media, you no longer have to perform, you just have to appear to perform. When you live by PR you no longer make decisions based on the cost-benefit but in the PR it will generate. It is like crossing the road by doing a quadruple back flip and spin when you could just walk across. A good recent example is the Drones, that was genius, it was big thinking, but is it what we need now? It made headlines, Rwanda looked good, but there are so many other cheaper and more effective solutions, but they don’t generate good PR. Simply making ice-pack fridges which can fit on the back of a moto would be more reliable, cheaper and provide employment. That is where thinking big goes wrong, you think out of proportion and perspective of your problems. One Lap Top Per Child, you jump to digital when analogue radio can be used to teach children and adults alike. Analogue radio isn’t cool, it won’t get you on the cover of Time, but it will solve your problems cheaper and quicker in your own context. We should open a radio station with multiple frequencies for different ages, teaching courses 24 hours a day.
Where are the jobs?
Some Govt offices exist just to produce good PR, not to solve problems, so they are never honest about the problem in the first place. The Labour ministry produced stats saying there is 2% unemployment, the joke of the year, the minister went on to insult Rwandans but the biggest insult is that lie. 2% ? Then it says urban unemployment is 8%, that is the sweet smell of cooked stats, if you deny the symptoms of the patient then you can never cure them. The total number of jobs added last year was 86,000 and we had 7% growth. That is pathetic. We are having a jobless boom, so much money swilling, record profits but no jobs. If there are no jobs then there is no boom. We judge our progress on shiny new buildings, empty buildings, mountains of debt with no tax-base to pay for it. We have some 350,000 tax payers and that barely grows, they are paying all the income tax. The Labour ministry is sleepy, it is a sweet job where nothing happens and you get promoted because you avoid scrutiny by doing NOTHING. People are so fed up with them, most want it disbanded as it doesn’t know its purpose. Just pay govt workers on time, that’s all. Rwanda has a whole black economy worth $20bn, all this growth is just bringing these shadow businesses online, we can have 10-15% growth with the right policies.
The Fundi scenario
Here is a story we all know well, I am sure you will appreciate this illustration of our structural problems.
Tap is leaking or lights are out, you need a technician, there is no directory of approved plumbers so you send someone to ask around. The first person they ask “Do you know any plumbers?” and they answer “Funny you should ask, I did plumbing for a Belgian, I am one of the best in Kigali, ask around” The odds of bumping into Kigali’s best plumber at the first time of asking are slim but you accept.” The first thing he asks you for is money to hire tools, a professional should have tools but in Rwanda they rent tools from the hardware shop. He is stinking of booze, the Sudiweri – little liquor bottles of 100ml marked “Sealed Well” Sudiweri. He asks for an advance and comes back 6 hours later even more drunk, this time he needs money for parts only. You dismiss him but you get another drunkard, maybe they do it. Even if they can do a job, they deliberately sabotage and leave something loose so you call them again.
Look around in the room where you are sat right now, is it straight lined? You see the window at a slight angle, the floor is never level, the people who build it can never see it. It is “Good enough” never the best job you can do, just enough, people are often over-budget and behind schedule so they never do things straight. I never look at Rwandan buildings because it pisses me off, the tiny mistakes amount to a lot, it looks great when it is new and shiny but eventually the ugly shows. The drunk Fundi who measures by closing one eye and tilting his head till it is straight, we need to professionalise him, maybe even get some more her’s in the sector. The real jobs are not being counted, over 2m Rwandans have jobs that are unrecognized, bicycle mechanics, handy men, day labourers, painters, transporters, vendors, hawkers, small bankers. They are outside the economy, they don’t figure in the knowledge based economy dream we have, but they are the vast majority. How do we bring them online into the main economy?
Formalizing the informal
UK had the same problem, drunk Fundis, thieving technicians, what we have now. Then there was a law introduced saying clients could sue fundis who did a bad job. Now the Fundi’s had to get insurance, to get insurance they had to register for tax, they also had to declare an income. Now imagine if Sonarwa had to pay every drunk fundi who messed up? Now they would set up qualifications and standards required to get insurance. So the client is covered, the worker professionalises, the fake imposters are removed because they don’t have insurance. Then we can have a minimum wage that is worth it because quality is guaranteed. You should not be able to call yourself a bricklayer unless you have been approved by the City Guild of Workers, your exam is to make a wall of bricks against the clock and meeting good standards. Same with plumbers, electricians, mechanics, tyre-fitters, even basic labourers should be certified and covered with insurance, making it mandatory will expand our insurance sector which lacks subscribers. After that we will start to see our windows straight, our floors will be level, and people will have jobs.
Many have proposed a job agency, one twitterer was adamant that Labour should be moved away from the ministry of Labour otherwise it will wither. Then what would be the point of Labour as a ministry? We have this fascination with creating autonomous stand-alone institutions because we cannot fix the bureaucracy and institutional memory in certain institutions that resist change. Labour is a good example of this with an autonomous Capacity Building dept. What is their purpose? They cannot create jobs but can provide a framework towards formalization, while also connecting people with jobs, and employers with workers. The metrics of measuring unemployment also need to change, you can’t count subsistence farmers as employed, then measure the jobless as part of this overall number. It should be those seeking work as part of the total formal taxpayers. That is why we need an agency that truthfully collates employment numbers in all subsections of demographics to give us a better idea of the problem and how to solve it. Instead they cook the numbers to look good, 2% go away, no problem here. That is a problem, we should sack ministers without problems and dissolve their ministries, if only 2% unemployment then we can close it, there is no problem of employment. We all know this is false because many young graduates we know are unemployed for up to 3 years after graduating, no one counts them because they are fed at home but anger is mounting, and it is wasted potential.
Lowering entry barriers
When you look at classified ads for jobs in Rwanda it is almost saying “Kenyans and Ugandans only” they are demand too much for too little pay. They want qualifications and experience, but also want youth. How can you get experience in Rwanda in such a new economy? Even when they hire experienced Kenyans and Ugandans their experience cannot fit the Rwandan context. It is better to lower entry barriers and employ our own, we talk of Agaciro but we worship Kenyans and adore Ugandans, even if some suffer corruption and laziness. Most of these expats are just looking for a way to make quick money, to earn expenses or fake them, they have no investment in Rwanda and all the money goes back home. A university degree should get you any entry level job in Govt then you can learn as you go, a job of $500 a month requiring a Master’s degree is left empty for years, any non-stealing worker would be better than empty. We need to lower our standards and make the best of what we have, get people who are enthusiastic and willing to learn, and not second-hand cast offs. We have to believe in Rwandans, not just their book knowledge but cultural knowledge and understand their context better. I worked with NGO’s where I was told I am too “involved” and my opinions were clouded the same type of thinking. We also think like that as a people. We can do it, so bring that Diploma from ULK, or UNR, or Kabyayi and let us build our nation together.
Part II coming soon
True social banking and social security
What is the point of a bank?