Monday, July 23, 2012

Manchester, England

I haven't been to Manchester, but it's what Rwanda needs.

Projections are that Kigali will reach a population of more than 5 million people in a generation.  This is the current population of Singapore, a country that the Rwanda government holds up sometimes as a model.  Buy Singapore is one of the largest ports in the world.  It's not landlocked, surrounding by mountains.

Kigali presently is the economic center of the country and its capital.  As more and more Rwandans achieve the benefits of higher and higher levels of education, the pressure to go to the big urban center to take advantage of white-collar, middle professional jobs and opportunities will impel ambitious Rwandans to go there.  As this city grows, it will naturally expand physical, at the risk of driving up costs for low income people and forcing them to move.  This dynamic usually produces social instability, sometimes leading to development of shantytowns, a phenomenon not really seen in Rwanda. 

Rwanda needs to provide mutli-dimensional opportunities for its young people.  It needs to develop a vibrant alternative city to Kigali.  Butare is a logical choice, given the placement of the national university there.  (Kigali has the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, which I had the chance to visit, and which is a handsome campus that naturally will lead to spin-off technology enterprises and the like in Kigali.) 

But whether it is Butare, some existing city, or a newly designed information-technology center like Palo Alto, California, the plan for Rwanda's future must allow more than the alternative of (i) returning home to a rural community, (ii) moving to Kigali, and (iii) moving abroad to join the vibrant Rwandan expatriate community.  I am not suggesting, by the way, that farming does not engage the mind or call for great talents; I lived on a kibbutz in Israel where the person in charge of the orchards also was a colonel in the military and whose "business meetings" seemed like complex corporate strategy sessions.

Developing a light industrial, high value added manufacturing and quality-centric tradesman (and tradeswoman) community that provide opportunities to the upcoming generation -- and their children -- is crucial for Rwanda's longer-term development.  While some English youth might gravitate toward living in London, others will see Manchester as a different option might provide opportunity them. 

Decreeing the existence of a new city did not work so well in Brasil or Burma, but it has been successful in China.  Putting all the eggs in one Kigali basket is a strategy with high risk and, frankly, inadequate reward.  Rwanda needs to create viable, vibrant alterantives for the future of its wonderful people.  Manchester:  address --Rwanda, Central Africa.

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