Rwanda, November 20, 2008
No matter how much they want to be
Many people have put forth the proposition that Rwanda is in East Africa. From high level agreements like COMESA down to the perceptions of East Africans, there is the feeling that Rwanda should be seen in the same light as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. I am here in Kigali to tell you they are all wrong.
Rwanda is not East Africa. And here are several reasons why:
Simplest, itâ€™s a Francophone country, unlike Kenya and Uganda, Tanzania, which have strong British influences. French is the first language of many, and French culture shows through with more smokers in Kigali than all of Kenya and Uganda, and a return to right-side driving.
Next, unlike the others, Rwanda is a dollarized donor economy - at least 50% of all economic activity is directly related to the massive international development industry that is driving its growth. From the inflated taxi prices that would even make Nairobi taxi drivers blush, to procurement corruption that goes with stupid amounts of Western cash chasing incremental results.
Then, the country looks to itself or France before the rest of Europe or East Africa. One small, but telling aspect of inwardness is the inability of the ATM network to accept international bankcards. Every other African country has the capacity for international cash advances - even Nigeria and Togo! And then when people think of international travel, it's to France before all others. No Ugandan would think Paris before London or New York.
Last but not least, I type this while all of Kigali is shut down for a protest. Regardless of the worthiness of the protest, I do not see Kenya or Uganda wasting a workday like this. Okay, maybe Kenya, but in Uganda they have too much to do to subject the entire capitol to a lost work day.
So the next time someone says that Rwanda is part of East Africa, ask why they think such nonsense. Rwanda is not East Africa. Not even close.