Monthly Archives: April 2014

Rwanda:Africa’s 21st century epitome of endogenous development


First published on Pambazuka News 

The 21st Century has been touted as Africa’s to claim. In fact, at the risk of sounding like an Afro-pessimist, there has been many an encomium such as ‘Africa Rising’, a narrative notably fostered by Western publications.[1] At the centre of this ‘Africa rising’ debate, is the subject of development.[2] In view of the subject that is development, it is vital to take into account that all conceptions of development reflect a particular set of social and political values.[3] The debate has been what constitutes the hallmark of development with a number of paradigmatic oppositions emerging: traditional versus modern; agrarian subsistence economies versus highly productive industrialized economies. On the continent, consideration of what ‘development’ is to a large extent is accorded to the evolution implied and promised by the passage from the former paradigms to the latter.[4]Rwanda’s (endogenous) development model has largely defied this. The concept of endogenous development refers to ‘’the process of economic, social, cultural, scientific and political transformation, based on the mobilization of internal social forces and resources and using the accumulated knowledge and experiences of the people of a country. It also allows citizens to be active agents in the transformation of their society instead of remaining spectators outside of a political system inspired by foreign models.’’[5] Dr. Christopher Kayumba contends[6] that post-genocide Rwanda is largely understood two-fold: An authoritarian state waiting to disintegrate yet again as posited by the likes of Filip Reyntjens who argue that “rather than liberation, inclusiveness and democracy, the RPF has brought oppression, exclusion and dictatorship…it has concentrated power and wealth in the hands of a very small minority, practiced ethnic discrimination, eliminated every form of dissent, destroyed civil society, and massively violated human rights at home and abroad…it pays little attention to the fate of the vast majority of its population made up of ever poorer peasants, and little awareness of the structural violence its ambitious engineering project engenders. That people’s widespread and deep-rooted feelings of frustration, anger and despair are a fertile breeding ground for structural violence, and they are likely to again lead to acute violence” [7] Notably, the State of East Africa Report 2013, ranks Rwanda as the most unequal country in the East African Community.[8] Kagame has since hinted at running for the 2017 elections. READ Authoritarian? Not Rwanda . Secondly, Rwanda is deemed as a post-conflict reconstruction model on a developmental course to be emulated argued by the likes of Booth & Golooba-Mutebi[9], former US president Bill Clinton as well as former British premier Tony Blair.

President Paul Kagame.

Can we talk about Rwanda without invoking Kagame’s name? Photo:


Gross National Product growth statistics might mean a good deal to an economist or to a maharajah, but they do not tell us a thing about the quality of life in a ‘developing’ country’s fishing village.[10] As opposed to the top-bottom approach of the orthodox neo-liberal prescription of development, Kigali has fashioned the alternative view of development which is participatory and reliant on local appropriate knowledge.[11] This underscores the role of politics in espousing an ideology that guides mobilization and allocation of development resources. Published in 1975 by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, What Now: Another Development asserts that the process of development should be need-oriented (material and non-material), endogenous (coming from within a society), self reliant (in terms of human, natural, and cultural resources), ecologically sound and based on structural transformations (of economy, society, gender, power relations). Rwanda’s endogenous development initiatives are as numerous as Rwandans’ venerable cultural practices. Umugunda– community work, has seen to it that every last Saturday of the month, Rwandans aged between eighteen and sixty five (it is mandatory for this age bracket) come together to do public works ranging from cleaning to building of schools and medical centres. Umugunda is estimated to have contributed more than US $ 60 million to the development of the country since its institutionalization in 2007.[12]  This is in no uncertain terms illustrative of what Nyerere once said of the African; he/she is ‘Communitary’ in his thinking. Girinka– One Cow per Poor Family, an initiative necessitated by the high rate of child hood malnutrition and the need to reduce poverty rates, has resulted in an increase in production of milk products in Rwanda, effectively reducing malnutrition besides augmenting incomes. 350,000 cows are expected to have been distributed by 2017. No less than 180,000 people have benefited from this programme since its 2006 introduction. Enshrined in Article 168 of the Rwandan Constitution, Umushyikirano– the National Dialogue Council- with thematic variations, annually affords the Rwandan hoi polloi the opportunity to directly ask their leaders questions concerning their plight. Noteworthy is that, the questions are recorded and a summary report and recommendations are produced and archived for future reference. Umushyikirano depicts democracy at its peak. Ubudehe, an age-old practice among the Rwandans seeks to enhance participatory development within the community. Ubudehe allows communities to define their development priorities for instance by determining their own conceptualisation of poverty. Thomas & Evans, 2011 note that the monetary-based conception of poverty has been almost universalized among governments and international organizations since 1945. This mainstream conceptualisation perceives poverty as a condition suffered by people who do not earn enough money to satisfy their basic material requirements in the market place.[13]Of significance in this instance is that Ubudehe additionally helps communities to determine ways of funding their development projects. At least 1.4 million people in Rwanda have been beneficiaries of Ubudehe since its re-introduction in 2001. The list doesn’t end with Ubudehe. Geared towards reconstructing the Rwandan identity, Ingando-solidarity camp[14] trainings are anchored on six pillars: the man and the universe, the history of Rwanda, human rights and conflict management, the Rwandan nation, good governance, the economy and social wellness. Somewhat related, Itorero serves to inculcate Rwandan cultural values into its young populace- half of which are under 20 and nearly three-quarters under 30[15] and rebuild the nation’s social fabric. That the year 1988-1997 was declared the World Decade for Cultural Development by UNESCO, lends credence to Kigali’s culturally-inspired development model. Underpinning this were the then prioritized objectives of acknowledging the cultural dimension of development, affirming and enriching cultural identities and broadening participation in cultural life. In his Kwibuka 20 speech, Kagame observes that Rwanda relies on universal human values, which include Rwanda’s culture and traditions, to find modern solutions to its unique challenges. Anti-globalists have argued that the values being globalized are conveniently those found in the West. The politics of donor aid has been and still is a pertinent issue on the continent. Africa’s foremost political organization- the African Union is sixty percent donor-funded. That Rwanda has been labeled a ‘donor darling’[16] shouldn’t be lost on us and that much it knows: We want you to know that we appreciate your contributions, precisely because we do not feel you owe us anything.’[17]In launching the Agaciro Development Fund on August 23rd 2012, an idea conceived during the 2011 Umushyikirano– the National Dialogue Council, Rwanda scored another first yet again as far as ‘African Solutions to African problems’ is concerned. The Agaciro Development Fund (a sovereign wealth fund) looks to secure Rwanda’s financial autonomy. The dignity of the AgDF (now standing at about 21 billion Rwandan Francs) is that it is entirely Rwanda-funded. Images of hunger stricken Africans have dotted if not entirely been spread across international news headlines for quite some time now, something that keeps rearing it’s not so beautiful head every often. Food insecurity certainly continues to be a developmental challenge to many countries on the continent. Rwanda, in its culturally-inspired development model has established a communal food store, to which each family contributes at least 20 per cent of their harvest during a good season. It is with initiatives like this that Rwanda has managed to reduce stunted growth among its children, according to a UNICEF report, from an estimated 52% in 2005 to 44% five years later.Gacaca (Traditional Courts), Imihigo (Performance Contracts), Umwiheroro (National Leadership Retreat) and Abunzi (Mediation Committees) constitute the country’s other culturally-underpinned programmes that are indeed the mark of endogenous development.[18]As Rwanda commemorates its 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, and moves towards a knowledge-based economy, the ingenuity with which the home-grown solutions come with, akin to Isidore Sankara’s Burkina Faso can only get better.

READ: Taking Sides in Rwanda and How Rwanda’s Paul Kagame Exploits U.S. Guilt

[1] See Time Magazine,9171,2129831,00.html & The Economist

[2] Charles Robertson and Michael Moran argue that ‘Africa’s Rise is Real’ . Rick Rowden says it’s nothing but a myth , the former underscores the concept of human development.

[3] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011

[4] Mudimbe, V. Y. The Invention of Africa; Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge, 1988

[5] Demba Moussa Dembélé. Thomas Sankara: An Endogenous Approach to Development, available at

[6] In an Opinion Piece in The East African: It’s been 20 years of unimaginable success; more needs to be done available at

[7] Reyntjens, F. 2006, Politics in Rwanda: Problematising ‘Liberation’ and ‘Democratisation’, Third World Quarterly, 27 (6)

[8]The State of East Africa  Report 2013  by Society for International Development available at

[9] Booth, D. & Golooba-Mutebi, F.  Developmental Patrimonialism? The Case of Rwanda available at

[10] Roberts, R. Questioning Development, 1984.

[11] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011

[12] Rwandapedia

[13] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011

[14] Ingando. Rwandapedia available at

[15] Speech by President Paul Kagame at the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi available at

[16] Stefaan Marysse, An Ansoms, and Danny Cassimon, ‘The aid “darlings” and “orphans” of the Great Lakes Region in Africa’, European Journal of Development Research 19,3 (2007)

[17] Speech by President Paul Kagame at the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi available at

[18] For further discussion on Rwanda’s Home-Grown Solutions, see


Kwibuka 20: President Kagame’s Speech- the Sound Bites

  •  Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
  •  Excellency Secretary-General of the United Nations;
  •  Excellency Chairperson of the African Union Commission;
  •  Former Heads of State and Government;
  •  Distinguished Government Officials from around the world;
  •  Esteemed Guests;

My Fellow Rwandans:

”Your sacrifices are a gift to the nation. They are the seed from which the new Rwanda grows. Thank you for allowing your humanity and patriotism to prevail over your grief and loss. Thank you very much.

Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words “Never Again”, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.

The people who planned and carried out the Genocide were Rwandans, but the history and root causes go beyond this country.

People cannot be bribed into changing their history. And no country is powerful enough, even when they think that they are, to change the facts. After all, les faits sont têtus (facts are stubborn)

The most devastating legacy of European control of Rwanda was the transformation of social distinctions into so-called “races”. We were classified and dissected, and whatever differences existed were magnified according to a framework invented elsewhere.

The purpose was neither scientific nor benign, but ideological: to justify colonial claims to rule over and “civilize” supposedly “lesser” peoples. We are not.

The colonial theory of Rwandan society claimed that hostility between something called “Hutu”, “Tutsi”, and “Twa” was permanent and necessary.

With the full participation of Belgian officials and Catholic institutions, this invented history was made the only basis of political organization, as if there was no other way to govern and develop society.

However, Africans are no longer resigned to being hostage to the world’s low expectations. We listen to and respect the views of others. But ultimately, we have got to be responsible for ourselves.

In Rwanda, we are relying on universal human values, which include our culture and traditions, to find modern solutions to our unique challenges. This is why I say to Rwandans, let’s not get diverted. Our approach is as radical and unprecedented as the situation we faced.

Managing the diversity in our society should not be seen as denying the uniqueness of every Rwandan. If we succeed in forging a new, more inclusive national identity, would it be a bad thing?

To our friends from abroad:
We ask that you engage Rwanda and Africa with an open mind.

We want you to know that we appreciate your contributions, precisely because we do not feel you owe us anything.

Rwanda was supposed to be a failed state. But we made three fundamental choices that guide us to this day. One- we chose to stay together. Two, we chose to be accountable to ourselves. Three, we chose to think big.”

The full speech can be found

The African Renaissance is a farce without de-westernizing ‘truths’.


Without de-westernizing ‘truths’, the African Renaissance would be nothing but farcical, to say the least. This rebirth should be alive to the fact that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But how do we remember this past if we cannot even authoritatively describe/define it? In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries judged and ranked human intelligence and civilization by whether the people practiced alphabetic writing. Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the measuring stick for human intelligence and civilization was history and no longer alphabetic writing. That ‘people without history’ were located in a time ‘before’ the ‘present’. Thus people with history could write the history of those without.[1]This has fostered the notion of equating history, with writing about history as if before writing there was no history. [2] Wa Thiong’o notes that words name thought and the tongue voices the words. Words don’t come out of our mouths in written form; they come out as voice, spoken.[3]

That Africa didn’t have a written history is a stereotype that has been reinforced by the entrenched institutional ignorance and ‘epistemological oppression’ that to borrow Ngunyi’s words, bestrides the discourse in our institutions of higher learning like a colossus. However, nothing could be farther from the truth, as depicted by more or less one million manuscripts recently found in Timbuktu covering both physical and social sciences:

Explorers just brought new proofs which could explicate ‘’African inferiority.’’ Since Africans could produce nothing of value; the technique of Yoruba statuary must have come from Egyptians; Benin art must be a Portuguese creation; the architectural achievement of Zimbabwe was due to Arab technicians; and Hausa and Buganda statecraft were inventions of white invaders (Davidson 1959; Lugard, 1905; Randall-Maclaver, 1906; Sanders, 1969; Mallows, 1984) observes Mudimbe.[4] Azikiwe holds that the ‘’renascent African’’ must know that his ancestors made definite contributions to history. Undeniably, this ‘ahistorical’ view of science, technology and mathematics that deliberately leaves Africa and its peoples out of evolution of humanity’s science, technology and mathematics[5] has to be the starting point for this odyssey that is the African Renaissance. As Ki-Zerbo maintains, the curse of Africa is not the chronic ‘poverty’ of its countries but the ignorance of its children of the true history….of the continent. The renascent African, it follows, has to reclaim their history from the West.To quote Mwalimu Nyerere, ‘we, in Africa, have no more need of being ‘converted’ to socialism than we have of being ‘taught’ democracy. Both are rooted in our past- in the traditional society which produced us.’

The sources of knowledge are either science or philosophy. Discourses not only have socio-historical origins but also epistemological contexts, and the latter makes them possible.[6] To this extent, (Mudimbe,1983) poses pertinent questions: to what degree can one speak of an ‘’African knowledge’’ and in which sense? Who has the right and credentials to produce it, describe it….or at least present opinions about it? Is it only ‘’real’’ Africans or Westernized Africans as well? He thus posits, in a strict sense, ’the notion of African philosophy refers to contributions of Africans practicing philosophy within the definite framework of the discipline and its historical tradition.’ Critics however hold that with the globality of epistemology today, which they say is no longer Western, there can’t be such a thing as ‘’discourse authenticity’’.

‘Truths’ are today dominantly based on a Western episteme. European philosophy,concepts, identities and ‘truths’ have either been imposed by seduction or force. Statehood as the primary form of political organization among nations, or the conception of power as well as its management in today’s Africa as Ki-Zerbo puts it, has nothing African to it. [7] And Western-style democracy I’d add. Evan Mwangi reckons  that even the word ‘’Africa’’ is not African just as much as ‘’Kenya’’ is not a Kenyan word. ‘’Kenya’’ is a European mispronunciation of Kirinyaga, the pre-colonial Bantu name for Mount Kenya, adds he.[8] Every language has its way of organizing meaning and Ngugi challenges us to develop knowledge, philosophy, and other arts through African languages. The monetization of poverty is yet another conceptualized ‘truth’ we so gladly, and unquestionably at that, embrace. ‘’The so-called developed countries have regarded poverty as being something external to them and as such a defining feature of the quote-unquote, Third World. This view has provided justification for the former to help ‘develop’ the latter by promoting further integration into the capitalist market. A community that provides for itself outside monetized cash transactions and wage labour, such as a hunter-gatherer group, is thus regarded as poor’’…. and ‘primitive’.[9] This orthodox view of development promotes reliance on external ‘expert knowledge’, usually Western in lieu of participatory, appropriate often indigenous knowledge and technology.Is Westernization the hallmark of modernity? Objects which perhaps are not art at all in their ‘’native context’’ become ‘art’ by being given an aesthetic character by some odiero. In Half of a Yellow Sun– in cinemas this month, Odenigbo reiterates that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe: “…my point is that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe…I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.” Professor Ezeka counters: ‘’But you became aware that you were Igbo because of the white man. Tribe as it is today is as colonial a product as nation and race.’ Identity is undoubtedly of the essence when talking about the African Renaissance for without identity ‘’we are just a mere object of history, a prop in the play of globalization, an instrument used by the others. A utensil.’’ The African literary renaissance  will contribute greatly to the discourses that shape Africa’s rebirth in the political, economic and cultural spheres of African people’s lived experiences.[10] Sankara knew how important identity was when he renamed his ‘’fatherland’’  Burkina Faso- the land of the upright people from the colonial Upper Volta  and introduced le Faso dan Fani, the traditional  cotton-made Burkinabe cloth, later nicknamed by civil servants as ‘Sankara arrive’. This was underpinned by the policy that required that every civil servant had to consume local products. Today, to a large extent, Africa produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce.

Many an African analyst/academician has up to now been using conceptual systems supposing a non-African epistemological locus. Even in the most explicit ‘’Afro centric’’ descriptions, models of analysis explicitly or implicitly, knowingly or unknowingly, refer to the same order.[11] In what constitutes an unequivocal indictment on the African Renaissance, Okpanachi and Andrew reckon that a brief glance at course outlines in some African universities shows the course instructors in these schools rely on Western theories, sometimes even to teach domestic politics.[12] Few African scholars receive mention. The tragedy of our times, huh? READ @SiyandaWritesAcademia is Africa’s last hope

Our institutions of higher learning are no longer citadels of knowledge, an assertion disputed by some. ”Professors spend most of their time scavenging for wealth, lecturers are competing hawkers in the markets and students dread reading,” writes Kabaji in the Saturday Daily Nation. Africa contributes not more than two percent of knowledge generated worldwide, much of this produced in South Africa and Nigeria. In Kenya, ”how many new ideas have been patented from our various universities?”[13] Indeed, how many patents do we have continentally? Through bio-piracy, Africa’s genes, plants, and related traditional knowledge are being patented by Western Multinational Corporations. Consequently, Africa is losing in the region of not less than US $15 billion from its biodiversity annually. We have to design  curricula in institutions of higher education that reflect our needs. Education rooted in African realities; much of the social sciences are rooted in a Western episteme. They have to be alive to political, socio-economic and technological needs of our nations.SEE @ChikaforafricaEducation in Africa: Whose education, anyway?

Genealogy-the ‘history of the present’, prescribes that by looking into the past, we see alternative ways to conceptualize humans’ relationship with certain concepts and gain an understanding of the discursive and material structures that underpin the present.[14]

Illustrating the ‘epistemological oppression’ that has consigned ‘authentic’ African discourse to what I’ll call ethno ‘truths’- knowledge bereft of a universal quality,regardless of whether it is in colonially inherited European languages  or  mother tongues, Hamid Dabashi asks why European philosophy is “philosophy”, but African philosophy ethno philosophy, the way Indian music is ethno music. Mignolo rightly argues that African philosophy and European philosophy, ”are (potential) epistemological equals, the former has been subordinated by the coloniality of power.” The coloniality of knowledge has consequently led to an emergence of a dichotomizing system, and with it a great number of current paradigmatic oppositions have developed: traditional versus modern; oral versus written and printed; agrarian and customary communities versus urban and industrialized civilization; subsistence economies versus highly productive economies. On the continent, a great deal of attention is generally given to the evolution implied and promised by the passage from the former paradigms to the latter (Mudimbe, 1980). It should be noted too that ‘truths’ are not opposed to power- as in the classical phrase ‘speaking truth to power’- but is integral to power itself. ‘The way Western scholars have ‘gained knowledge’ about non-Western peoples by describing them as inferior, backward, underdeveloped, and sometimes threatening’[15], makes a good illustration of this. Knowledge is not immune from the workings of power. Instead, as Foucault argues, power in fact produces knowledge. All power requires knowledge and all knowledge relies on and reinforces existing power relations. From a publisher’s perspective, the control of knowledge will always be a political question that makes the arena for cultural production a site of struggle for dominance and struggle for the power to define, legitimize and consecrate ideas, producers and products.[16]

But if Confucianism offers the possibility of desubalternizing ‘truths’ and expanding the horizon of human knowledge beyond the academy and beyond the Western concept of knowledge and rationality, this possibility is also open to forms of knowledge that were hit harder by the colonial tempest.[17] African social scientists address African realities in borrowed languages and paradigms, conversing with each other through publications controlled by foreign academic communities, and producing prescriptive knowledge.[18] Bemoaning the fact that the continent has vast resources and ostensibly lacks  ‘intellectuals’, @cobbo3  points out that there no longer exists a single prestigious peer-reviewed pan-African journal. That, all the better journals are produced by Western institutions and universities

We’ve got to move beyond where colonial discourse assigned us. The question that the Africa Renaissance in effect should address as entails knowledge is how African philosophy  ”can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa.’’[19] Education thus ‘either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practices of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.’[20] The latter ought to be reflected in our education systems.


[1]  Mignolo D.W.  Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking.                                                                                                                                      

[2] Tongue and pen: a challenge to philosophers from Africa, a translation of ‘Rũrĩmĩ na karamu: ithoga harĩ athamaki a Abirika’ Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Journal of African Cultural Studies, 2013.



[4] V.Y Mudimbe. The Invention of Africa; Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge,1988.

[5] Biao, I & Dipholo B.K. Rethinking Education for Sustainable Development in Africa, The African Symposium, Volume 13, No.2, December 2013.

[6] V.Y Mudimbe. African Gnosis Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge: An Introduction. African Studies Review, Vol. 28, No.2/3 1985. .

[7]Amy Niang. Joseph Ki-Zerbo: The Historian and His Struggle,2006

[8] Evan Mwangi. Through New Writing, Africa is roaring again. Daily Nation, March 2nd 2014.

[9] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011.

[10]Contributions of African literature to the African Renaissance; Maurice Taonezvi Vambe

[11] V.Y Mudimbe. African Gnosis Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge: An Introduction. African Studies Review, Vol. 28, No.2/3 1985. .

[12] Andrews N & Okpanachi E. Trends of Epistemic Oppression and Academic Dependency in Africa’s Development: The Need for a New Intellectual Path. The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.8, December 2012

[13] Egara Kabaji: How Scholars lost the plot: .Saturday Nation,18 2014.

[14] Hansen L. Postructuralism in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. an Introduction to International Relations.2011.

[15] Ibid

[16] Mbakwe T. Arise Nana Ayebia. New African, June 2011

[17] Mignolo D.W.  Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking.

[18] Zeleza, P. T. “The Politics of Historical and Social Science Research in Africa.” Journal of Southern African Studies 28, no. 1 2002

. [19] Dabashi, H. Can non-European think? Aljazeera, 2013.

[20] Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed.