Abasongarere bo muri leta

You can’t really be passionate about changing the world and passionate about logistics at the same time…

John Kayihura, a veteran Rwandan Tour operator is having an early, much deserved breakfast on the shores of the Shanga River in the ‘Dzanga Sangha Forest reserve, situated deep in the south-eastern jungles of the Central African Republic and nestled between Cameroon and Congo Republic’.

The trip was, in his own words ‘a 27 hour harrowing and exhilarating ordeal that I would never forget if I ever got home to tell about it.’

But he is about to be rewarded. Suddenly two powerboats appear coming upstream, and on board is the President of the Central African Republic. The two men are equally baffled to see each other there and John is hired on the spot as ‘Tourism consultant for the Republic of Central Africa’ by His Excellency Francois Bozize.

His fortunes will be short-lived, sadly, as Bozizé was promptly Coup-ed a few months later by a rebel group named Séléka.

John remains cool though, his adventurous life keeps leading him to risky places and unpredictable encounters, he knows anything, or anyone can happen, anytime…

But John and other hustlers of this town wouldn’t have to travel 550km deep into virgin equatorial forests, risk their lives to make onetime encounters and deals, if logisticians in this town were sharp matchmakers.

Which brings me to the just concluded World Economic Forum for Africa, in Kigali.

First phase successfully completed; we were all excited that people come to visit. We wanted to make a good impression, dance and smile for them.

Phase two is to start cashing in, and I don’t mean on hotel rooms and restaurant change – that’s just lazy thinking; I am talking about the big buck.

All the pitching and the closing is done by our president; Rwanda’s best salesman. Others wait to be told what to do.

‘We have no control of this event’, an important logistician told me, ‘its all managed by WEF all the way from Davos, Switzerland’.

In one of the rare side events I attended at the Serena, I came upon a young brother who was attending to one of the visiting Heads of States.

‘My president is pleased you know, I made him walk the whole time!’ He told me with pride. I looked at the cute young brother, barely 24, and wondered what him and the president are talking about during their health walks…

Then I thought about what would happen if hustlers like Eric, Gislain or Manzi were instead in charge of the said Presidents. By the time WEF is over they would have closed contracts to build resorts in Dakar, Libreville or Nairobi.

It took John about five minutes with Bozizé to be hired: Tourism Advisor for CAR. Imagine the size and the amount of deals that he can seal in three-day health walks. My young brother probably walked off with a EUR1000 tip – at best.

What John has in common with these three sharp guys I just named above is that you like them instantly. They are civilized, brilliant and elegant. And they are not conmen. They know when to pitch and when not to. For the presidents it wouldn’t different from playing a game of golf…

My young brother from the protocol should be working for them, and they for the presidents. I checked with each one of them, they wouldn’t mind being personal drivers to visiting Heads of States. I also checked, everyone loves these guys in Kigali and everywhere they’ve been…

I asked a friend in Kenya what happens when they host international events: The list of guests is availed to the private sector, brainstorming sessions conducted to mature top business ideas and encounters arranged.

You see, when you ask a President to meet the business community, it is too formal and boring for them, but when you facilitate camaraderie the whole thing goes smoothly.

In Rwanda we have remarkable stories and expertise to share, many African countries would benefit from them. But we have to start thinking in business terms.

A friend recently told me that when he asked a minister in Singapore to sign an MoU with his ministry in Rwanda, the Singaporean was blunt: ‘Sorry, we don’t sign MoUs before business! Ask me what you need and I will arrange for you to meet every company that produces it. Then after you have conducted business, feel free to comeback to me and ask me in marriage if you want.’

That’s how it works over there, all is done for business. Here, it is like we are all in competition. It is the proverbial branch manager of Banki y’Abaturage in a Rwandan village, walking around with pride and giving loans to those he likes.

I have seen a friend offering coffees to proud RDB bureaucrats, signing MoUs with MINICOM, with nothing coming out of it.

The reason they work for government is because they can’t do business; they can’t even think business. This country will be developed by business, not civil servants; they need business people more than business people need them. All these events are organized in Kigali for business to thrive, not for good speeches to be spoken. The sooner the logisticians realize that, the better.

It isn’t different in our sector too; last week someone from an NGO showed me the full agenda for the African Union in Kigali to which they are already invited to lobby in the corridors.

Wait a minute! I thought to myself, I know for a fact that this western NGO is against African interests, but they are already invited and fully prepared.

The only buzz created during WEF in my opinion, was the sensational photos taken by Gael of Illume. Yet, I asked him, he was not invited to WEF and he hasn’t been invited to the African Union.

When I went to drop a friend, I watched as Eric the filmmaker, Yann Gwet the international journalist were denied entry into the closing gala of WEF. I watched as they were asked to step aside, so that innocent, respectful young civil servants on the list could get in.

Predictably sterile articles were written about the event.

Seriously, ‘Bamenyereye gukora byabindi, kwakundi, hahandi, hamwe na wawundi…

Listen guys you know I love you with passion, but you can be exhausting sometimes with your misplaced pride. When I tell you this, you think I am self-projecting; I want to be invited or hired or whatever. Look, if it was for the money I would go back to Mozambique or to NGOs anytime.

A quick recap on the WEF; billionaires randomly met on a skiing platform in Davosand convened to hang out in the evening. Over the years the skiing became a pretext to meet and close deals. I know we are just getting started in this, but we don’t have to go through the same process to get to the business.

A big contract secured by a Rwandan businessman abroad is hundreds, if not thousands of jobs created for Rwandans; good luck developing with renting hotel rooms during conferences.

Like golf courses, these hotels are being built to provide a conducive setting for business deals to be sealed. Please make that happen, don’t compete with them for the platform with Rwandan business people.

Alright, let me end this on a positive note:

Eric my friend, is lounging in the villa of a Hollywood billionaire in Pasadena, LA, when the said billionaire turns to him:

  • Hey Eric, you are from Africa right? Do you know this lady, I wanna by her house.’

Eric takes a closer look, the said lady is Patience, the first wife of late Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba; it turns out her villa is listed in one of those billionaires’ magazines.

  • Yes, me and her we’re close, she is like my sister…’
  • Oh, Ok, can you arrange the deal?
  • Sure thing!

Bam! Just like that, filmmaker Eric was hired to broker a multi-million dollar sale, which led him to Brussels for a little reckon, then to Libreville, casting Maman Patience, a onetime singer, as lead actress in his up-coming romantic comedy and eventually offering to buy her villa in the meantime, while the scriptwriter finalizes her part.

The house was promptly bought, but the script was interrupted by a minor hiccup; it turns out its writer was soon admitted into rehab for cocaine abuse. These things happen frequently in the film industry…

True story.

You see Eric and Ali Bongo Ondimba, current Gabon’s president had the ice broken already. His mother loves Eric; who doesn’t…


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