Made in Rwanda Meets America First

I traveled more than 7,000 from Washington D.C. to Kigali, Rwanda, to escape my day job: a political reporter. But it turns out The Donald is hard to escape.

To be sure, I did not expect to entirelyavoid talking about Trump, his tweets or the state of US politics. (And full disclosure, I didn’t disable my @realDonaldTrump notifications. And had I, I might have missed this gem.)

But I did not expect to find myself on the receiving end of some uninvited political analysis during an interview with the director of the country’s largest garment factory.

“I always knew Trump would win,” he said, jumping tracks in the middle of a question. “He’s a businessman. Clinton – she is the status quo.”

It was hardly earth-shattering punditry, but nonetheless I was curious where this would lead and what – if anything – the politics of 2016 had to Rwanda’s efforts to grow its manufacturing sector. He never made the connection, so I asked.

The interviewee – a naturalized US citizen from South Korea, now working in Kigali – said he was confident Trump would revitalize the American economy, which he hoped would have a trickle down effect all the way to his factory in this tiny landlocked country. A Rwandan employee of the factory shot a sarcastic glance at my fixer, a Rwandan who goes by the moniker “le faux maire”. 

After the interview, the mayor and I debriefed. He admitted that he lost track of the conversation at the point where the man compared Rwanda to “dust”. That was odd, I agreed. But what about Trump? We hadn’t discussed politics yet – domestic or international – but I couldn’t imagine that many Rwandans share my interviewee’s view. 

“I’d say 90% of Rwandans think Trump is crazy,” he said. He paused for a moment. “95%. 95%. That’s right.”

– Lauren Gambino