Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some things change ... Some stay the same

Even before arriving in Kigali, two and half years after my first visit, I was hearing stories of change.

The in-flight magazine tucked in the seat pocket of my twin turbo-prop flight from Entebbe in Uganda talked about a recent visit by Rwanda's President, Paul Kegami, to the US. He had met with the heads of F-500 companies including Google and Starbucks. He negotiated deals that will see Google become the major IT solutions provider for the Rwandese public service and Starbucks begin opening stores in downtown Kigali.

If people have money and time to spend on coffee and in cafes things must be changing in Rwanda.

Within minutes of landing at Kigali international airport some of these changes in the fabric of city life in Rwanda became apparent. On the 40 minute drive from the airport to the Kimisigara community on Mt Kigali I saw many late model cars on the road, including Mercedes Benzs and BMWs. A plethora of new apartment developments and construction projects also lined the clean, palm tree and grass lined streets.

Another noticeable change was the service (gas) stations. In 2004 all they sold was fuel. In just about every case their storefronts were completely empty shells, but now they were full. Fridges stocked with the big cola names and walls lined with shelves brimming with potato chips, chocolates and snacks and the kind of ordinary grocery items you would expect to see in any convenience store anywhere in the developed world.

John's wife Gladys was driving us from the airport and I commented to her that things appeared to be improving economically for Rwanda. I couldn't believe the changes I was seeing in the relatively short amount of time since I last visited. She replied that while on the surface this looked to be the case, in reality it was those who already had money that were making more of it, while the poor were still poor.

This was confirmed when we arrived at our destination - things on Mt Kigali hadn't followed the path taken by downtown Kigali. In fact very little had changed in the time I had been away.

I was greeted by the same badly erroded dirt road, 3 room mudbrick houses and children clad in dirty, torn clothing. This was the same place I had said goodbye to the last time I left Rwanda.

Perhaps the rich do just keep getting richer. When Starbucks open the doors of their new Kigali cafe I don't expect to find too many of the Mt Kigali locals sipping lattes or cappuccinos!

No comments: