When will Rwanda practice the economy of scale?

‘My delegation and I, there is no string in our cloth that has been imported. Everything we are wearing has been tailored in Burkina-Faso’ – Thomas Sankara, at the African Union Summit.

Such message is obviously alien to Rwandans; going around in Kigali malls and stores, you find China or Dubai imported products that can easily be made locally.

I have a friend who frequently travels to Dubai, GuangZu or Istanbul: Kurangura (To buy in wholesale). He buys a piece at 10 dollars and sells it in Kigali at 250. I know young bankers who have opened lines of credit with him, to supply them ‘Armani Suits’, ‘Versace blazers’, etc. – at that price… He is quickly getting rich, because you can’t wear the suit for more than three months…

Same thing with another friend whom, in addition to fake clothes, brings couches in fake swede, fake leather, etc.

They both tell me they go to Italy, France and Germany. But I know, none of them ever got a Schengen visa; they don’t need to, they all go to China, Dubai, and sometimes Turkey…

This was all started with Bourbon Coffee. The model, country flagship coffee shop, furnished entirely in China imported fake plastic chairs, plastic tables and fake ebony couches. As a result, every Rwandan who was building a house, thought that was the trend.

They all went to Dubai to shop for the finishing of their houses, and brought doors in fake wood, handlers in fake metal, etc. In fact a store opened in town and claimed that its ‘tiles and marble are made in Italy’; the truth is they aren’t even in true marble; they are China made plastic tiles. The short lifespan of the ‘Italian’ tiles and door handles has since made the fortune of the shop owner; shockingly!

For Christ sake, we live in Africa; the equatorial forest is just next door. There are more carpenters than graduates in Rwanda; Timber: ‘Ebony’, ‘Libuyu’ – the real deal, are all accessible. Kivu-DRC has some of the best Ebonists there is.

I ask all these frequent travelers to Italy (read China) and France (read Dubai):

–       What do you bring there?

–       Nothing (read Dollars, which we take from Rwandans).

How can you visit a city 20 times, bringing them plenty of money in exchange of their junk, without ever suggesting to them something from your country? They must think you just climb down from a golden tree right?

I see an economy that is unable to harness the skills that are available on the market; growth that fails to tap into the available human resource; as a result, we import substandard products that we have to replace frequently, thereby exacerbating the income deficit and the inequality levels within the Rwandan society.

The talk of ‘Kwihangira umurimo’ (create your own jobs) is all fine, if it is followed by another one: ‘lets consume locally’. Indeed, carpenters and tailors in the west are very rich; they are called artists; they are celebrities. In Rwanda they are miserable…

Why do we have to import clothes? Just, why? Why do we have to import chairs, and doors and fake tiles? Can’t we wear what we produce? We have the most beautiful stones such as Rugarika

Just visit ‘Magda Cafe’ in Kacyiru; their combination of locally made wood and cloth is just stunning! Visit Papyrus club and see their trademark Rugarika stones; Visit Gato Keza coffee shop at Kwetu and admire their combination of weaved chairs and live coloured couches; all homemade! beauty lies in simplicity and finesse…

Why do we have to spend the little foreign currency we make with tourism and export of our best coffee on fake suits, plastic shoes, plastic chairs, plastic tiles? West Africans wear their own ‘bazin’ and look dashing in them!

Do we really have to import our plates from Italy and our chairs from Dubai?

–       When will the weaving association of widows ever make money?

–       When will the historically marginalized community of potters ever make money?

–       When will all the young graduates from Iwawa ever make money!!

A sustainable household is one that knows how to live within its means. At the same time, civilizations that have stood the test of time are the ones that were built with authentic structures…

If you can’t understand that, then you don’t even deserve IKEA; you deserve the fake tiles, the fake swede chairs and fake Armani suits; after all, can you even tell the difference? Can I?

Posted 26th February