Whenever a Rwandan travels to Europe from the motherland one is faced with the same feelings; guilt for leaving, nostalgia for the little things and the people and a constant wonder whether the grass you left was greener.
When one arrives particularly after spending an extended period in Rwanda you become a veritable goldmine of information and a stream of visitors beats a path to your door.
The programme is written in stone; they come over bearing gifts, then you enjoy a drink or two, then you go through all the relatives and assure them that they are all fine and then the real reason they came over is revealed.
“What kind of business would be really profitable to start in Rwanda?” that is when you wonder whether to give away you business ideas or not.
This question can get irritating after a while, especially when repeated several times in a row. This question often reveals how out of touch some of the Diaspora are with events in Rwanda.
“Web design?” we got plenty of them, “electronic shops” ditto, “restaurants?” ditto. One soon tires of the question and thinks up a stock answer, a standard reply that can encourage investors while also keeping them realistic.
I now reply “Whatever you come back to do, do it professionally and with distinction.
“Skill, competence, or character expected of a member of a highly trained profession” that is the description of professionalism and this is what is lacking in our continent.
Rwanda has come a along way; one of my favourite anecdotes is how our government managed to double our GDP in one day simply by canceling the siesta break where people used to go home to sleep after lunch.
I encourage Rwandans to return and bring professionalism; it is not about qualifications and the certificates, it is simply about living up to your word.
Arrive on time, call people back, treat every customer with equal respect and value, give the customer a bit more than they expected and you will see the difference.
Professionalism is what separates viable businesses from non-viable ones and the results are being seen in the UK right now.
During a boom one can tolerate incompetence and waste but when money dries up one rearranges his priorities and the bad service counts against.
For all our progress in aspiring to professionalism we still have a long way to go and the long-term prognosis is steady improvement but we can speed it up; do not wait for Rwanda to change we have to change it ourselves.
Look around Kigali and you see a plethora of experts in professional positions; are they better qualified than Rwandans?
Often not, but they bring a level of professionalism often rare in Rwanda. So whatever you may chose to do; do it well, on time, and on budget.
I’ll end with a story you have heard before. I was looking for a painter, a man came over claiming to be professional, and I was pleased “when can you start?”
Today, excellent!! “I just need some money to buy some tools and paint and brushes and sand-paper and turpentine plus I need a ladder.” What?
I thought you were professional? How can you be a professional without tools?
“You see, I was walking down the road and some guy stole them and said that I owe his cousin 50,000Rwf and if I didn’t pay him he would take them and then my mother got sick and I had to go to Rwamagana……………”
Professionalism – hard to learn but it’s all about action.