As I explained in my previous article in this series the last time I visited Rwanda was in 2009. In 2009 I was greeted by a pristine city upon arrival in Kigali. It was not only pristine but also well-organized. As a business person, I was particularly taken by the clarity and transparency of business engagements. So you can imagine my excitement at the opportunity to visit Rwanda again.
I serve on the International Board of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). AIMS was founded by Neil Turok, a gentleman I have come to admire a lot. A South African scientist of global repute who believed, many years ago, in African Capacity to make world-changing scientific discoveries while making life better on the continent. You see there is no true scientific study and research without Mathematics. So on campuses in South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Cameroon and now Rwanda the best of Africa’s scientific minds gather to spend a year together studying Mathematical Sciences instructed by the best minds from across the world.
I was honoured to participate in the official launch of AIMS Rwanda. It was launched by President Paul Kagame who said:
‘’There can be no more effective or better investment in Africa’s future than in educating and empowering talented young people. We have to move “beyond potential” and create a workforce that will lead this real transformation for Africa. It will only be done through innovative scientific training, technical advances and breakthrough discoveries. For Africa to participate meaningfully in the global economy, we must build strong indigenous scientific and technological capacity. This is why we are pleased that AIMS is taking on this role. The capacity built right here on African soil will reflect realities on the continent and better answer our challenges”
(Read more about AIMS and the quest to find the Einsteins of Africa at www.nexteinstein.org)
This statement reflects what we truly need in Africa. For too long the narrative has been about what is wrong with Africa. It has been about how African talent is inadequate. It continues to form the central theme around brand Africa for most people including Africans. This has to change. Change is a choice.
Rwanda is a living example that in Africa, just like anywhere else in the world, the future can and must be created. We must boldly decide what we want the future to look like and create it.
I had the opportunity to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. 23 years after the unthinkable genocide happened in Rwanda the memorial still brought tears to my eyes. How was this possible? The genesis of the story has deep-seated roots that go back to colonial times.
Some images from the Genocide Memorial taken with my phone (click image to expand):
For me it was a story of how when the God-given capacity to decide and create the future is taken away from people the very worst can be brought out of them. I am not in a position to attempt to explain it all. However I can tell you that as a mother looking into the eyes of those young people who had been murdered reduced me to tears. Never again should another event take away the future.
Rwanda is living ‘never again’. One plaque on a wall read:
‘We will never forget these innocent lives that were taken. They died because they lacked a peaceful society in which to grow and flourish.
We, who were also children then and have our own children now, must ask ourselves, “What kind of Rwanda do we want for our children?”
Whatever we do, whatever the sadness we have, whatever the anger we have, we must promote peace.’
It is a country that has created a new vision for itself.
It is a country that is allowing a greater vision of what is possible to influence its language – what it says about itself. A new narrative.
It is a country that is changing mindsets through a new narrative. And that change in mindsets is leading to new action.
Action that creates new outcomes where people have a real chance to realise their potential.
Rwanda is living its very own Bold New Normal.
Chances are it is not easy. But it is possible! We should all take a cue from Rwanda because the changes are tangible.
Watch Paul Kagame’s speech at the launch of AIMS Rwanda: