The Business of Development
Upon arriving in Musanze, Rwanda and spending a few hours around town I quickly learned that sometimes you need somewhere more than it needs you. The goal of this trip from Kigali was to meet a potential development partner and perhaps find or create a small scale community requested development project that our team could help to facilitate. We arrived with a very vague idea of some of the projects that had already been been implemented but our hopes were high to “find” a place that may need our resources, because we’re in Rwanda, a developing country, they’re supposed to need our “help” right?
I quickly realized that these vague descriptions of “projects” were simply used to attract muzungu’s such as myself to the guesthouse, but that they were overall just a facade. Walking around and seeing the fresh shining aluminum roofs, plants in every yard, brick schools with iron windows and huge courtyards, I suddenly saw how useless we would be here. This was a community that was developed by all rights, there were not an unusual number of people begging on the street, most of the houses were clean, people were lively, children were in school, and the whole place was sitting in a valley feeding off of the 10-24 surrounding hills. Sure there’s a few potholes that could be fixed, the odd window that could be replaced, a farmer that could use funding to plant a new variety of plants, but these things could be accomplished by the community alone in a year or two’s time.
The truth is that development is good for business. Work to be done = westerners coming over and paying to stay in these local guesthouses. They are willing to pay $6 a meal, which seems cheap but is vastly overpriced for food in the area, and pay 20 dollars for “community walks” they could easily take themselves.
Now I’m not at all saying there isn’t opportunities and potential for successful development, or else my 4 years and $30’000 + of undergrad in International Development would be pointless. I’m just saying it is unnecessary here.
The area is attractive in its own right. It sits in the valley of more that 20 overarching hills and 4 massive volcanoes, everywhere you are surrounded by greenery and plants in a the community that is small and incredibly friendly. Who wouldn’t want to come here for a few days to walk around barefoot and read a book – the way it should be advertised is through these means. However, local entrepreneurs have quickly caught on that development sells. The fact is, westerners bring money, and development work brings westerns.