Friday, 22 November 2013

#War, #genocide and #poverty or the Switzerland of# Africa? Would the real #Rwanda please stand up

Google ‘Rwanda’ and you have a wealth of knowledge on genocide, HIV programmes and gender based violence so you could be excused for thinking I’m writing this from a bunker fearing for my life as a female eating ration packs. As I speed around the city of a thousand hills on the back of a ‘moto’ (taxi driven motorbikes) I think wow what a beautiful place, tarmacked roads, well maintained buildings and immaculate gardens, roundabouts and pavements but where is the google impression? It would be amazing if more folk had the chance to experience Rwanda as it is today, though it is such an amazing place I think I want to keep it a secret.
 Beyond the surface beauty there is a thriving entrepreneurship scene that is evidence of the resilience, drive and strength of this small nation. It has been Global Entrepreneurship Week where Kigali has been buzzing. The city has been full of events celebrating existing entrepreneurs, small businesses and providing opportunities for innovators, investors, NGOs, and business people to share and learn.

I had the opportunity to be a judge on our partner ‘Educats’ business plan competition. After 5 days intensive training 9 entrepreneurs competed for a £4K investment and a KLM plane ticket. Between 6 judges ranging from a mix of Mzungos, local entrepreneurs and bankers we had to choose 3 finalists. A serious challenge to select between a smoothie company, a bread manufacturers, a chicken farmer, a sausage maker and designers. Do you choose the best pitcher, the idea with most scalability or someone who could inspire a generation of Rwandans?

I am pleased to say that Herve, a Grow Movement entrepreneur won the competition. He is a sausage manufacturer and pig farmer selling to supermarkets, hotels and local people. His pitch did not have the greatest clarity but he really impressed us with his knowledge and passion for his business during the Q&A session. Herve is a true entrepreneur with drive and natural charisma. I am proud that Grow Movement and his volunteer consultant Rick in the USA played a part in his success.

The talent, energy and breadth of ideas coming from these young entrepreneurs I wish we could showcase and inspire other people with. I hope  that next year the work that Grow Movement does can help put entrepreneurship in Rwanda at the top of google listings and help to drive out these negative assoications, just one Skype consultancy call at a time. 

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