Kigaliís business babies
I was one cute baby. Ridiculously so. I’d post a picture, but the traffic would crash the New Times’ website, so, just take my word for it. My mom tells me she once had to fire a nanny who used to take me out onto the street and show me off to passers-by.
Can you blame her (the maid, I mean)? I had these big brown eyes and puchu pinchable cheeks. To top it off, I was my parents’ first born child. For the first few years of my life, not only was I this crazily cute kid, but I was the only kid in the house - and you know what?
I knew it.
Yup. I knew the powerful effect my cuteness had on mere mortals. I understood the heart-stopping impact the flashing one toothless smile had on my crowd of admirers (aunties, uncles, older cousins and other visiting victims). So I worked it. I got all the free candy, stuffed animals and custom dolls I could get my adorably plump hands on.
But... as every elder sibling knows... there is always someone just as (if not even more) cuter around the corner.
Enter my baby sister - and a few years after that, my baby brother. Soon, I could no longer count on those puchu cheeks of mine – which due to tricycle rides and games of tag, were fading fast – and was turning to my wit and charm to distract my doting parents from the newcomers.
You know what – doing business in Kigali today, is a lot like being that first born babe. The market is still so young – there are still so many opportunities untapped – that you can come up with almost any enterprise and make an immediate difference.
I often think, how different it would be if I had started my company in London. Within the first 2 years - Would I have had the chance to get a contract with one of the largest government institutions in the country? Would I have been able to get the launch of my company published in a national newspaper? Would I have company executives calling me up, and asking me to do their websites?
Never mind London – we can move in a bit closer to home – what about Nairobi? What about Kampala? Could I have started there with such a big bang?
Well, the answer isn’t no: I could have done it, but it would have required much more work - more connections, more publicity, more knowledge and experience.
Why? Because in those cities, people like me are a dime a dozen – or a shilling a set. Here, in Kigali, entrepreneurs are still worth their weight in gold.
But it won’t last.
The rest of the world (and all the entrepreneurs in it) is slowly waking up to the fact that there is more to Rwanda than a 2004 Hollywood movie. Soon, someone, somewhere, is going to notice that gorgeous lake hidden in the middle of Nyarutarama. Someone else, perhaps from somewhere different, will wonder why there is still no official cinema in the city centre that is up to international standards. Then, someone will realise that – ahem – wait, I’m not giving away all the business opportunities! If you are that someone, you’ll just have to come here and see for yourself.
For the rest of us business babies, who have recently set up shop in this nation’s capital, I say, grab what you can now! Make a name for yourself. Build up a loyal customer base. Buy that piece of land. Register that domain. It won’t be long before we’ll be asked to share our toys.
Akaliza Keza Gara is the founder of Shaking Sun, a multimedia company based in Kigali.