While carrying out their regular household chores, our grandmothers demonstrated impressive practical skills. Traditionally, the skills development aspect was part of our informal education but somewhere down the line, we failed to capitalize on the foundation of vocational training built by the past generations.
Globally, Africa is the leading source of raw materials but the continent’s manufacturing sector is lagging far behind. Most critics link this underdevelopment to the colonization of the mindset. Whether this notion is true or not, the traditional supply chain of basic commodities had potential to become a solid industrial base.
At the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center, located in Kayonza District, the traditional setup of a Rwandan household is recreated. This is done in order to make tourists acquainted with the cultural practices of their destination. The experience sheds light on the forces of production and division of labor in the context of a traditional Rwandan society.
When our grandmothers were busy molding utensils, churning milk, weaving baskets and grinding sorghum, our grandfathers were making spears and arrows, canoes and paddles as well as a wide variety of tools and equipment used in their day-to-day lives.
The quality of carpets, baskets, gourds, calabashes and lids handcrafted by Rwandan women for centuries speaks volumes. Their skillset says a lot about the aptitude conveyed from generation to generation. The need to preserve Rwanda’s rich cultural heritage, coupled with the growth of entrepreneurship, is the driving force behind the ongoing momentum in the Made in Rwanda campaign.
Traditional household chores set the blueprint for the development of the food processing sub-sector. In addition, basic tools made by members of the local communities way before the arrival of colonial agents set the precedent for the growth of the manufacturing industry. Unfortunately, somewhere along the journey, we lost focus and became consumers of finished products from abroad.
Cultural tourism has become a popular product in the temporarily suspended tourism industry. While this product showcases our cultural heritage to foreign tourists, it should serve as a tool encouraging the new generation of Africans to take their ancestors’ creativity to the new level.
Across Africa, history portrays societies of industrious people blessed with abundance of raw materials. At some point, we obviously took a wrong turn. The good news is, it’s never too late to go back to the drawing board. We can use these experiences to revisit the past and retrace the right course of action.