After completing secondary school at Christ Roi College in Nyanza, Natacha Haguma left the country to pursue her university education in South Africa at Pretoria Technikon University.
She was to enroll for a degree course in Human Resource Management, but there was one problem: Her command of the English language was not good enough. For this reason, she was forced to enroll for a one-year course in public relations to improve her communication skills and put her at par with the rest of the students.
“By the end of the year, I was so much confident in spoken and written English, thanks to the environment because I had no choice except to express myself in English. It was harsh but it was rewarding in the end,” she says.
After sorting out her English language issues, she proceeded to study what had taken her to South Africa in the first place and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in human resource management in 2004.
“While Studying in South Africa, I was so impressed by the level of development in the country, especially how people did their work professionally,” she explains, adding: “I had a chance to interact and connect with many people who gave me a chance to participate in some important functions and events.”
Haguma still remembers the time, during her second year, when she worked as an intern at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Fair in Midrand, South Africa in 2002.
“Since then, my life’s ambition has been to become a real events planner.”
In 2002, she returned briefly to Rwanda, although not to set herself up in the business of events management yet. Rather, she came to tie the knot with her husband. After her wedding, she returned to South Africa to finish her studies, which she did in December 2003.
On returning home, Haguma had only two things in mind: Family and a job.
“We all know how when you finish your studies, you are so impatient to get a job...that’s how I was, plus I wanted to enjoy my home as a married woman, since I had to leave my home in a hurry after the wedding...in short, I was a little confused!”
She is all praises for her husband, whose identity she declines to disclose, for easing her dilemma at the time:
“He agreed that we would not have babies for the first year after my return, and this helped give me concentration and focus.”
In February 2004, she found work as a receptionist at the Private Sector Federation (PSF), if only to gain a little work experience.
Within six months of getting the job, she had been promoted to the position of human resource officer.
“All my colleagues believed in me and I realised it was my time to prove to them that they were not wrong.”
Another year elapsed, and she earned yet another promotion to the position of public relations and events manager.
“Now was the time for me to showcase that events management was my hobby,” she explains.
Impressed by her work, her employers sent her back to South Africa for an intensive, three month’s course in events management.
“Once back, I was ready to spend sleepless nights preparing for exhibitions, meetings, conferences, study tours, press conferences, leading the Rwandan business community in different countries, road shows, presidential round tables… you name it.”
She is all praises for PSF, “for opening so many doors for me in terms of exposure and networking.”
“Through its programs, I managed to enrich my database and travel to different countries such as China, Egypt, India, South Africa, Congo Brazzaville, UK, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, and to European countries.”
She might have enjoyed all the benefits that came with her privileged position at PSF, but Haguma’s dream still remained to try something of her own –preferably something in the events industry.
“I was enjoying my work and pay in PSF but whenever I looked at the business community in Rwanda someone could read in my eyes that my dream was to become one of them one day.”
In 2006 she resigned her job at PSF, “and started slowly on my own as a private events/marketing consultant. The first contract I got was actually from PSF, where I was charged with organising Technical Vocational Training (TVT) programs countrywide. That has been a good start for me and it has enabled me win other deals and contracts.”
One of her most memorable events to date still remains the Prosperity Expo 2012 that marked 25 years of the RPF. “I was in charge of the sponsorship and mobilisation, which proved to be a big challenge and success to me at the same time. Being December, most companies did not have advertising budgets, and it was not in the action plan of most companies since it was the first of its kind. However this was a motivation for me to show that I could make it. The credit I got for this job opened more and more doors for me.”
One such door that has opened for her is the Kigali Fashion Week, where she is coordinating sponsorship and marketing.
She also does part-time consultancy work, and is the sales representative of Sahasra Electronics Ltd, a new company that is setting up a factory to manufacture LED lights in the Free Trade Zone. “My contract with them covers Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC,” she states.
She is also in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with a new solar power investor she met while representing young Rwandan entrepreneurs at Rwanda Week in Geneva in September.
The three loves of her life, by way of inspiration are her God, president, and mother. The president, for “prioritising the agenda of women, the youth and young entrepreneurs” and then her mother: “Since I was a child, I have always been impressed by my mother’s intellectual thoughts yet she didn’t have a chance to go to school. She would tell us every day: “Try and fail, but never fail to try.”
What is she up to when she is not planning and managing events?
“I am a blessed woman married to a lovely husband with 2 kids (a beautiful daughter of 8 and a handsome boy of 4).
During my free time, though these days it’s not easy to get, I do enjoy my small family and my other relatives. I love sports, I do play tennis 3 times a week and this reduces my stress especially when I have a lot of work.”