The New Times’ Wednesday front-page carried a claver pictorial juxtaposition of Minister of Finance Claver Gatete and Central Bank Governor John Rwangombwa; like strategists in a situation room, our bespectacled economy gurus were sharply focused on Rwanda’s growth prospects which IMF has placed at 6.2 per cent, this term.
In a ‘question headline’ carried the next day, Thursday, the editorial was asking where the projected 6.2 per cent growth is likely to come from considering that economies are reeling from the shock of commodity price collapse on the international market.
Should the 6.2 per cent projection stay on mark, it would be a pick-up from the 5.9 per cent that was actually registered last term, having fallen short of the 6.0 percent earlier forecasted.
Nonetheless, with just three years to Vision 2020 deadline, it is almost certain that we will not attain the desired double digit growth earlier anticipated; that means less jobs created, less tax revenue collected and, slower poverty reduction as incomes remain low.
There is, however, a silver lining on the horizon; an emerging generation of young Rwandan tech-preneurs whose ideas have the potential to singlehandedly cause transformation and deliver double digit growth through smart ideas.
Today is a good time to forget about what we, hitherto, regarded as Rwanda’s economic mainstay and aim our focus on these new tech-preneurs whose potential is secured by the ever surging influence of the internet backed technology based solutions to traditional challenges.
Here, the picture of Patrick Nsenga Buchana, the 24-year-old Chief Executive of AC Group, comes to mind; during the Transform Africa summit, Patrick was photographed delighting three African Presidents, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, with his smart tap-go bus cards.
Now, Patrick, who is a former newsroom colleague, is a rare crop of a young man; I remember one morning while having breakfast, over a year ago, when I mentioned to him that if there was any company I wanted to invest in, it would be his AC Group.
“Unfortunately, companies like yours are not yet on the stock market yet I see you and your company becoming the next big thing around here, in a few years to come,” I remarked. Patrick simply laughed it off, with boyish chuckle.
A year after that quip, Patrick has since quit the newsroom to focus on business; his tap & go card has close to a million active subscribers; he recently signed deals to expand to West Africa and he currently employs many Rwandans both directly and indirectly.
True, out of ten start-ups, only two grow to shine like Patrick’s but the lesson that our start-ups need hand-ups to realise their potential, can’t be missed.
We saw a good example this week, when Rwanda’s largest commercial bank unveiled fifty technology based youth-led start-ups whose owners will undergo a six-month sponsored Urumuri mentorship programme from which five outstanding performers shall benefit from a Rwf 60 million interest-free fund.
So, to discover the next AC Group or Patrick Buchana, more such initiatives that give youth led start-ups a hand-up will be needed because it is in such start-ups that we have our best shot at attaining faster growth in coming years.
For inspiration, the story of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon comes to mind. He has what I and my friends don’t have; the courage to leave our jobs to embark on an un-assured venture such as starting one’s own business.
Unlike many of his fellow billionaires, Jeff completed University education and like many of us, went on to take jobs, very high paying jobs by the way. But unlike many of us, he had the courage to quit being employed to create employment.
The same factor that spurred Jeff into entrepreneurship, 23 years ago, is still alive today; internet; apparently, in 1994, Jeff read that the web had grown 2,300 per cent in one year, a number that astounded and got him thinking how he could be part of that amazing growth story.
“I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event; when I thought about it that way…it was incredibly easy to make the decision to quit my job,” he said.
So off he went and started Amazon.
A story is told of how in the first few months after opening shop, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made an online purchase, and everyone would gather around to see whether anyone knew the customer so they could deliver the commodity.
A few weeks later, the bell was ringing so often that they had to make it stop.
Today, Jeff is regarded among tech world’s most powerful people with a net worth of US$82bn and fast closing in on yet another tech guru, Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Amazon, his company, listed in 1997 and currently has a market cap of $457 billion.
It is predicted that Amazon, which sells goods worth US$136 bilion annually, is among listed firms that could soon become the world’s first trillion-dollar company.
So let us bank more on Rwanda’s young tech-preneurs today for in them, there is strong potential to discover the next Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, the world’s richest men today.