I had an amazing experience in Rwanda, that i struggle to summarize my exposure to their culture, and what i learnt. I hope my summary below expresses my excitement and experiences as much as i felt them.
- A SENSE OF SECURITY
A standby fire service station just as we touched down at the Kigali International Airport.
All road traveled on, were smooth, no pot holes.
Drivers adhered to road signs even in the absence of a security official, or road been free. Buses are restricted to a 60km per hour driver. Above that limit, there is a beep loud enough to inform the driver and everyone on the bus.
In order to acquire a local sim, there were only registered MTN agents that I could get the sim card from. I had to take my passport and sign a form in order to have a 4G sim. Most vendors you may see on the street are for call credits either through mobile money or call credit cards.
Most Forex bureau are supervised by the bank. So rates even at the station (Supposed black markets) are the same. And you are provided a receipt with the supervised bank’s details on it. Rates may only be less than the Forex bureau if you are shopping with foreign currency at a supermarkets.
GPS works accurately. Streets are named and marked accurately hence the ease of locating a place without a guide. All you need is internet and a GPS address.
- SHARED VISION AND MINDSET (THE PEOPLE VERSES THE GOVERNMENT)
I may not have interacted with half of the population in Kigali or even 1% of the population however, my interactions with the locals, taxi drivers, workers, etc expressed a shared mindset between the government and the people. The people are confident that the government is working in their best interest and the government keeps them informed on goals and the impacts of such goals in the long term and short term. At an event at Africa Leadership University (ALU) at Kigali, it was clear that Rwandans understand the losses of initial investment in the short run, towards the stability of the economy before the economy returns on investment. For every plan there is an expected five, ten to fifteen year projection. I was amazed that this mindset were not only shared by the educated but also the uneducated who tried their best to communicate in English a little with me.
- DIGITALLY DRIVEN
There is a general appreciation for technology innovation and internet of things. The economy is being driven by digital transformation. Most payments are made online. Even an uneducated station master knows how to use POS device. Tickets are purchased at the stations electronically and buses to various location are boarded at given times even if the bus isn’t full, buses will leave the station at the recommended time. Speaking to some government officials, there are plans underway to ensure everyone is equipped with IT skills. Currently, there is a local manufacturer of laptops. Retail price is between US$550- 650. There are plans to make these devices very affordable to the low end market as well. Almost every activity and transactions are made online.
Payment of parking tickets at Kigali Heights( requires no human intervention. Drivers will pay at the parking machine and will be issued a coin which they will deposit at the gate to be open for them. Life can be that simple.
To be the cleanest city in Africa, must not have come easy and with just the introduction of policies. It takes discipline of the entire country to accept the challenge seeing the purpose and desire to be a change maker. Plastic bags are strictly forbidden. Papers are used for conveying items. I also noticed that even the muddy areas were clean.
Taxi drivers are on time for pick up and drop off. I was informed you never make excuses. Hence, even when it was raining I dared not miss an appointment. I was marveled at such principles and felt connected to the people. It was raining most of the time I was there, but I am glad I made it to my appointments even in the rain.
The people are welcoming and friendly, even for my taxi driver who could not speak fluent English tried his best to engage me in conversations about my country and his country.
- HUMAN CENTRIC.
At the international conference on responsible and inclusive finance, I noticed that product development discussions were mostly centered on the convenience for the target audience. Regulators were concerned on fairness for the consumers and the producers were interested on sustainability and continuous growth for the people which will directly and indirectly impact their business revenue and growth. Maybe the word design thinking was not mentioned but they are surely practicing its concepts.
On a local television channel, students invited officials from the National Bank of Rwanda to speak to them on financial policies and stability. You may wonder, what a young audience will understand from such a session or even think of how difficult it would be to communicate to them, but I was excited to see such mentorship program. These students are the future of Rwanda, what better time to coach them than now.
Motorbike is the cheapest mode of transportation, followed by buses. Taxis are expensive. It is legally compulsory for both the passenger and the motor rider to wear helmets or both parties will be arrested. Your life is precious.
I also had the opportunity to visit the King’s Palace Museum. It was inspiring to know that their history has been preserved and can be transferred to generations to come. My Airbnb host was lovely, my room was neat and homely and i had a nice time chatting with them.
Language maybe be a barrier to communication if you do not have an understanding of a second language (French)
I will try my best to share short notes on my learning from the conference.