The new Coronavirus outbreak affected every aspect of the economy, not just in Rwanda but globally and as we set our eyes towards recovery, as a country we should not forget the very things that we had set our eyes on before the pandemic.
Understandably, everything went into survival mode, including our lives, where just being able to stay alive alone is enough.
Thankfully the Government of Rwanda, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame did everything in its means to combat the virus and today it has been recognised for its outstanding efforts to fight Covid-19, becoming a model of following what science tells us.
Between March 2020 and today, we have been through a number of lockdowns and other restrictive measures which were all aimed at minimizing the damage the pandemic could have on us as a people.
Today, we are seeing many sections of the economy reopening thanks to the efforts of the government to ensure that many of us get vaccinated.
With more vaccines being rolled out today, one can only anticipate that very soon, perhaps before the end of the year, we will see a full or at least 80 percent reopening of the economy, which will be good news.
However, as we brace ourselves to go back to our normal lives, the signs are there for all to see that while service delivery has improved in some aspects such as online or digital transactions and delivery services, there are still poor service delivery practices that we are accepting simply because we are in difficult times.
Last year in September, during the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) extended National Executive Committee meeting at Intare Conference Arena, President Kagame urged the youth to take lead in shunning poor service delivery, which he blamed on a backward mindset and attitude.
A renowned advocate of good customer care and service delivery, the Head of State knows well the cost of poor service on the economy, especially for a country that is aspiring to be a service-led knowledge-based economy.
As indicated in the economic targets of RPF-Inkotanyi in the 2017-2024 manifesto, Rwanda’s ambition is to become a service-led and knowledge-based economy can only be achieved if service delivery is at its very best. This directly contributes to the country’s ambition to become a MICE hub on the continent.
Four years down the road, with just three years left to achieve these goals as indicated in the RPF manifesto, it is only fair to say that we had some great gains but there is no doubt that Covid-19 has set us a step or two back.
As we pray and hope that things get even better in the coming months, we also need to assess ourselves and see where we have backtracked and make necessary adjustments. For most institutions, most services have been moved online but how efficient are we when it comes to making it easy for people to access these services?
In some areas, mainly regarding access to most government or local government services, one can commend the tremendous transformation the likes of Irembo brought, eliminating the need for people to queue in offices to access a certain service.
However, very often you will see complaints surfacing online, of people not being able to get a service they need in real time, having to wait for a long time, a service line that is not picked when they call or simply poor services, particularly when it comes to telecoms or internet services.
We also continue to see complaints coming from the health sector, where delays, poor customer care, negligence or poor communication are becoming a norm.
We also witness bank customers complaining about a certain service or product, either the digital platforms are not working or they are being overcharged to use a certain, etc. I will not mention names.
Recently we saw the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) take stern actions on entities that are not meeting the expected service standards as agreed in their operation licenses. Most times we see Rwanda Development Board (RDB) jump in to address and issue here and there.
As someone very keen on the service sector development and passionate about improved service delivery, these complaints and regulatory interventions should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. Each one of us can do something which can make a difference.
First, we need to reject poor service and call it out, as President Kagame always encourages and secondly, in whatever we do (we all provide a service in one way or another), we need to ensure that we deliver to the best of our ability because as they say, it starts with you and me.
Online complaints have far-reaching consequences. Someone in Europe or the US, looking to bring a huge summit to Kigali might have to think twice seeing what is being said online.
The government has done its part, putting in place the incentives such as removing bureaucratic visa process and requirements and setting up institutions like Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB), to position the country as a destination for meetings, events and conferences.
However, this alone is not enough. Service delivery works as a well-oiled engine which can only function well if all the components are in place. When one component fails, the engine can ‘knock’ as it is often said.
Me and you form the components of the engine. If we all did what we are supposed to do, right from all government institutions, local government entities and the private sector, there is no doubt that the engine can function smoothly and steer us to our destination, which is becoming a service-led and knowledge-based economy.
The Writer is a Publisher and Commentator on political and socio-economic affairs in Rwanda & East Africa.