We learn from extreme situations. I visited Rwanda in trepidation. My first surprise came before arrival: the rapid response, super efficient on-line visa process. My second was having my suitcase searched at Kilgali airport…for plastic bags. They are banned. My third was walking down a street in Butare, the second city, at midnight and not being hassled.
Rwanda is indeed a remarkable country. It has come a long way from the unimaginable horrors of almost twenty years ago.
I have been reminded of my visit by reading ‘Rwanda Inc., How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World’ (Crisafulli & Redmond, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). The book is light on what will deliver Rwanda as ‘Africa’s ICT hub’, but there are many nuggets with clear learning that can be applied at a national level … and at a cluster level.
Two words stand out in Kinyarwanda, the local language:
Umudugudu: Getting people to sit down together and to identify their needs, sharing information; a self-help team.
The importance of a decentralised and inclusive approach.
Imihigo: A kind of performance contract where people publically state their goals before elders … ‘I WILL ACHIEVE THIS’ … and others in the community are then expected to support them. Failure to deliver is seen as a dishonor.
Establishing a (voluntary) coalition of the willing.
Two further insights from Rwanda that equally apply to cluster development:
1. The importance of a do-it-yourself, self-sufficiency culture. Firstly, setting priorities internally, self-determining. And then forging external partnerships with those who support, and can help resource, the vision.
2. Establishing a high level strategising forum that also opens up external support. Rwanda has a Presidential Advisory Council in place, a by-invitation business-government-academic forum that meets twice a year.
Go 4 it! E4