Successful businesses and countries depend on their leaders’ willingness to work for the common good of those they serve, President Paul Kagame told visiting students from Stanford Graduate School of Business yesterday.
The more than 20 students from the business school were visiting Village Urugwiro, where they interacted with the President as part of their five-day study tour of the country.
“As a leader, including in business, you are better off if you care,” Kagame told the students.
President Kagame also added that leadership is about ensuring that challenges are faced jointly and that all stakeholders are encouraged to participate in finding solutions.
Prof. David Bradford, a faculty member at the United States-based Stanford Graduate School of Business, who led the students on the study trip, described the conversation with the President as inspiring.
“President Kagame talked about being willing to make tough decisions, having the courage to do that, always putting the organisation or country first, a sense of selflessness in terms of serving and I think that is very inspirational for our students,” Bradford said in an interview with The New Times shortly after the meeting.
During the discussion, President Kagame described one of the most difficult moments as the period following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We had people who killed on one side. On the other side, we had a force who stopped the Genocide, half of which had been orphaned by this Genocide. We had to stand in between. We had to make sure we do not end up doing what had been done to us. We had to end the cycle of killing.”
On turning around the fortunes of Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the students heard from President Kagame that involving all stakeholders in shaping Rwanda’s progress, including entrepreneurs, was critical.
Rwanda’s economy has been growing at an average of 7 or 8 per cent over the last 14 years, with significant investments in construction, mining, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), tourism, as well as in services such as banking and insurance.
“We are all inspired by President Kagame. We are impressed with his being able to build a vision that says ‘we alone can’t have the answers’; he needs people to help him. So, it felt very much of a collaborative culture, which is our sense of what is necessary for success,” Bradford said of the conversation with the President.
The students’ trip to Rwanda is part of an annual trip of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business with the last one having been in 2013.
Themed “Developing innovative models for a new world,” this year’s trip covers both Rwanda and Kenya and is focused on learning from innovative models of business models, products and leadership.
The business students have a variety of backgrounds, including finance, telecom, engineering and technology.
“We’ve been impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the people we met. We had the opportunity to go to Hehe Labs and meet with young entrepreneurs there. We had the opportunity to stay in a village and meet people who are providing for their families there. So, I think just the entrepreneurial spirit of the Rwandan people has been extremely impressive,” one of the students, Eugene Lipkin, said of his experience on Rwanda’s trip.
On the question of Rwanda’s vision for the future, President Kagame emphasized the importance of Rwanda charting a future tailored to its context.
“We have been asked whether we want to turn Rwanda into Singapore or Switzerland. Rwanda is Rwanda. The question is not transforming Rwanda into another country or Rwandans to be another people. The question is ‘can Rwanda be a better Rwanda than it is today and can we continue to transform the lives of Rwandans’?”
Following the meeting with students, the President, yesterday, received the outgoing ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Rwanda, Hwang Soon Taik, who is close to completing his two-year-and-a half tour of duty.
Shortly after meeting the President, Amb. Taik said he is leaving behind a country which has stronger ties with the Republic of Korea.
“During my stay in Rwanda for two-and-a-half years we have achieved a lot of development in bilateral relations, in terms of political and diplomatic or economic and business relations. We have registered a lot of achievements,” he said.
He added that his stay in Rwanda was meaningful as he is the first resident Korean ambassador to Rwanda, adding that it was a good momentum for the two countries to find a solid foundation for their relationship.