January 8, 2011
Muraho from Kigali, Rwanda!
I’m on my way back to the USA today after eight days in Rwanda.
Below are some photos from Kigali, Rwanda taken this week. While here I had a chance to explore Kigali, meet with entrepreneurs, trek with the gorillas in the Virunga National Park, hike on the mountains overlooking Lake Kivu in Gisenyi, and see the future campus of the Akilah Institute for Women in Bugesera District. Kigali is probably the cleanest city in East Africa with lots and lots of paved streets and sidewalks.
The World Bank in its 2011 Doing Business Report named Rwanda as the most improved country in Africa and 2nd most improved globally for ease of conducting business. The Rwanda Development Board (RBD) is working hard to streamline business and investment regulations to make doing business in Rwanda attractive. Take a look at this Powerpoint slide deck from the RBD detailing business reforms and this news article “Rwanda is Now Open for Business.”
The Kagame Administration is halfway into executing on their “Vision 2020″ to build Rwanda into a middle-income country by focusing on economic development from the IT and tourism industries. You must read this Vision 2020 PDF if you are at all interested in economic development or solutions to ending poverty.
Interestingly, President Paul Kagame is perhaps the most active Twitter user among African Heads of State, connecting globally with the IT-savvy world.
Carnegie Mellon will be setting up a computer science school in Kigali in 2011 to train the next generation of East African programmers. And the Marriott, Hilton, and Radisson are all building hotels here to open in 2012 along with the new Kigali Convention Center.
There is so much activity going on here!
Rwanda is not only ready for entrepreneurs, it’s ready for tourists too.
If you have a chance, you must come to Rwanda at some point in your life. It’s a beautiful, dynamic, and friendly country full of “a thousand hills and a million smiles.”
I’m about to board flight one for the trek home from Kigali –> Entebbe –> Istanbul –> New York –> Raleigh. I love long flights as I can read, focus, and plan! I’m back to iContact on Monday morning.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Did you know this was happening in Africa? Why do you think the media so rarely tells this side of the story about what is happening in Africa?
Tell me your thoughts in the comments.
January 4, 2011
Muraho from Kigali!
Today I’m working from The Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda.
Akilah is a non-profit school that teaches hospitality, leadership, and entrepreneurship to women 18-25 here in Rwanda. Akilah was started in 2009 by Elizabeth Davis and Dave Hughes and now has fifteen full-time staff including twelve here in Rwanda and three in Tampa, Florida.
The school opened its doors in January 2010 with 50 students and will be expanding to 120 students at the end of this month in January 2011. Through the two-year program, the girls learn skills that enable them to get jobs in Rwanda’s burgeoning hotel and tourism industry that pay on average 10x more than the girls earned previously. Akilah graduates can expect to earn about $6,000 per year at an entry-level hotel position. Akilah received over 1500 applications for just 70 available spots for the class of 2012. It costs Akilah about $3,000 per student per year of education.
The Marriott, Hilton, and Radisson are currently constructing hotels here in Kigali that will open in 2012. These will be welcome additions to the current options in the city of the Hotel Milles des Collines (aka Hotel Rwanda), Manor Hotel, Serena, Top Tower, and Novotel.
More and more travelers are coming to Rwanda every year to conduct business, make investments, see the mountain gorillas in the Virungas in the Northwest, learn about the country’s extraordinary history, climb Mount Karisimbi, visit the Akagera National Park, or relax on Lake Kivu.
I met Elizabeth in October at the Opportunity Collaboration conference in Ixtapa, Mexico. In November I hosted a fundraiser for Akilah called “A Metropolitan Safari” at the iContact Offices in Raleigh at which Elizabeth and Akilah students Anita and Gisele gave a moving presentation. During the eight-city tour that included Tampa, New York, Providence, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., and Raleigh, Elizabeth, Anita, and Gisele raised $185,000 for the organization, all going to girls scholarships.
Expansion Plans for Akilah
Akilah is currently raising funds for girls scholarships to enable them to get through 2011. You can learn more on their web site about donation options.
Akilah plans to expand from 120 students to 800 in the coming years. They have recently received rights to 40 acres of land from the Rwandan government to build their new campus thirty minutes south of Kigali in Bugesera at the site of an old Italian School that shut down in the 1990s.
Here is how the Akilah model works. Central to the model is the expectation and obligation that each young women who attends Akilah will eventually pay for another to go to school in the future, using a portion of the increase in income they now have.
What is Happening in Rwanda Today
It’s truly amazing what is happening here in Rwanda in 2011 after such a tumultuous history. Kagame has chosen to focus on building Rwanda into the tourism and IT hub of Africa and growing the country through private sector development. He says if Singapore and South Korea did it, why can’t Rwanda. The country is stable, developing rapidly, and extremely welcoming. Akilah is just one example of many of the wonderful things happening here!
More to come from Rwanda in the days ahead…