By David Himbara
On June 23, 2018, General Paul Kagame’s New Times made the boast of the week — if not of the year. In its editorial explaining why the diaspora should help build skills in Rwanda, the paper boasted:
”As far as living conditions are concerned, Rwanda today can match any country if not better.”
This is fantasy gone insane. Perhaps The New Times meant to say that Rwanda’s living conditions can match the rest of Africa — which is hardly flattering.
As for attracting expertise from the diaspora, The New Times ought to inquire into why Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) was abandoned.
The purpose of TOKTEN was to reverse the “brain drain” by encouraging Rwandan nationals to provide their expertise through short-term assignments. TOKTEN program was implemented from 2005 to December 2007 through a partnership between the government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The Ministry of Public Service, Skills Development, Vocational Training and Labour (MIFOTRA) served as the Executing Agent. TOKTEN was highly successful, and achieved most of its objectives:
“47 volunteers were recruited from about six countries, mainly the USA and Canada. The greatest number of volunteers had science and technology backgrounds, followed by those with agriculture, and health and ICT backgrounds. Furthermore, the volunteers were highly qualified, with 21 of them having Ph.Ds, while 19 of them had Masters Degrees. The TOKTEN volunteers were also highly motivated by nationalism, and nine of them returned permanently to Rwanda after serving as volunteers.”
So, The New Times, instead of boasting about conditions that you do not have, investigate why TOKTEN was abandoned. I bet the Kagame regime doesn’t even remember this program. Like a chicken without a head, the regime will start something new as if nothing was ever attempted before. Part of the problem is that to Kagame, development is about visible things like buildings and jets. The invisibles such as skills and electricity are not priorities — hence their scarcity.