After a century of colonial exploitation, famine, dictatorship, war, failed economic liberalisation and communism, Africa seems to be off for a fresh start upon entering the 00s. The last time since independence a breeze of hope is blowing through the continent. Apart from the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya that add to this wind of change, it is the economic path that this continent recently embarked upon. The main drive for change is economic growth on the back of oil discoveries, rising food prices and the Chinese investing heavily in new businesses and resources (e.g. land) for its future population. Truth be told; this new wealth does not equally accrue to all, but generally new roads being build do benefit the villages along the way, helping women to get their tomatoes to the market.
In the same vein, my stay in Rwanda sparks optimism. Only 17 years ago, Rwanda was a classic example of an African basket case; war and despair. A quarter of the population had been cruelly murdered over a tribal conflict. How do you go from there? Paul Kagame, who is still seated in power, had an answer to the country’s woes. A Rwandan answer. Since of late, I have had the privilege to go behind the scene how this country is run. Half of my weeks I now spent at the Ministry of Agriculture (loaned out by my employer WFP) advising on market trends and how to buy for farmers.
I share an office with Francois, an intriguing man whose working spirit simply inspires. He is the head of the unit and answerable to the minister. He explains to me ‘We are building a new country Janno, we don’t know how to do it and do not have all the skills but we run forward, we just run and we’ll learn along the way.’ This is what I have learned so far; to just run. The justification behind the policies here seems to be thinner than ice and implementation rarely thought-through, but the one thing is hard to deny: they get things done! Ironically, it is exactly this that politics in more advanced countries are criticized for to be lacking.
I might be painting a different picture than the one often associated with Rwanda. But while and people are still traumatised and standards of living stumpy, a fresh wind of hope is blowing through this country, and the continent at large. In this post I just wanted you to feel this breeze, showing another side of the coin of an otherwise troubled continent.
- To symphatise with the farmers I work with, I decided to start farming myself. In our little background I planted some maize seeds (donated by an old lady of a cooperative I visited) and miraculously there is now maize plants are growing out of the ground. I noticed our guard did the same, and I am shamefully out-competed by the local Rwandan as his maize towers above mine.
- With a group of youth from different churches that worship together on Sunday eves, I went to Burundi last weekend and had a great time at the beach
- I had my first overnight prayer. This means a whole night of singing worship songs, listening to sermons, dancing, and praying. I arrived at church a bit late and remember hoping there would be enough people left. When I entered the building I was just blown away; the place was packed… Thousands of people would spend their whole night to share time together and praise their creator. Not just sitting it through, but crying tears, singing at the top of their longs and dancing all over the place. Back home 10 people showing up for such a service would constitute a success; this place was overflowing with people. Faith just seems to run through the veins and the core of the peoples’ soul here
- I had my 1st ‘Rwandafull’ birthday with as highlight a giant birthday cake in Rwandan colours made by a wonderful friend .
- I have been offered contract extension which means I’ll stay a few more months, and then I feel ready for a new adventure.
- I am flying back home to celebrate Christmas and New Year ’s Eve with family and friends. Am counting the days now and I secretly hope for it to snow when I arrive