Why Kigali, Why Rwanda?
1. Because a young girl in her twenties offered to drop me off at a restaurant yesterday and when I asked what she did, “School?” She said she was in the process of starting her own company. We spent the next fifteen minutes discussing her brilliant startup idea.
2. Because on Monday, I sat with my friends at a cafe overlooking the city and we batted solid ideas around centred on causing a major disruption in an African industry that will remain unnamed for now. There was never any doubt that we could do this. It was only about finessing our ideas and strategies. Both my friends are female, early 30’s. And for one of them, this is not the first time she is redefining a “closed” space.
3. Because I have been here for a week’s holiday since Monday and the electricity has not blinked. You will understand it better when I say my freinds and I are also making an IT gamble in Nigeria and for three days last week, my developer/partners were unable to work because there was no electricty in Abuja. Coders work in quiet plugged in environments, air conditioned with their headphones on, food is usually not important until they are ravenous. You cannot he hauling your computer from one end of town to the other “looking for light” and you simply cannot do your job by buying the obligatory beer at a bar or restaurant where people come and go.
4. Because you are surrounded by young people, all creative, all confident, with more brilliance and intelligence than the continental average. And Nigeria does not even approach the continental average.
5. Because you can travel three hours from Kigali to Gisenyi, by Lake Kivu at the DRC/Rwanda/Burundi border on excellent roads that have working streetlights all the way. And there, you can sit and eat the best tilapia and sambaza with chips at the New Tam Tam Bikini restaurant by the lake.
6. Because, in Kigali, you have beat cops at every corner in a way that makes you feel very secure. I have on occasion asked for directions and they were all very helpful, even though they had little English just as I have no Kinyarwanda or Swahili. There is a sense of a country that takes itself seriously, where law and order means something.
7. Because Rwanda has the best coffee in the world (sorry EThiopia) and has a cafe culture.
8. Because Kigali has culture, like Lagos but not like Lagos for the latter’s chaos.
9. Because the busses work and even the okadas, called motos here, are safe.
10. Because the business climate is so good for the entrepreneur it would freeze Nigerians stiff to realize how much easier their money would perform better here. Wages are comparatively high, yes, but quality of life is also generally high which impacts on employee productivity. You don’t need to “know somebody” at every level. A Rwandese company is Rwandan, sometimes I wonder if a Nigerian company is not an adopted child from a hated mother in Nigeria. Nigeriam business climate makes it so hard to make money.
I have no doubt that the Rwandans have their own peculiar issues which I do not see, which I might never understand. But that is the burden of their being native. But Rwanda shows something, that Africa can get it right if we can make the structural changes and implement the checks neccessary. The population of the country is about 11 million, the size of Lagos. And Lagos will not be on my top seven places to live as a young businessperson in this Africa.