IMAGINE a country that is written off before, during and after a genocide that claimed a million lives. Now fast forward and see Rwanda as it is today; a thriving nation that is focused and marching confidently towards its vision.
Rwanda has, perhaps unwittingly, thrust upon itself a leadership role in East Africa and is teaching some important lessons. What business lessons can we learn as individuals and as East Africans?
The first lesson is nothing is impossible. Many of us have a business idea in our heads. But 98% of us will not follow through with the idea and shrink away at this point.
We don’t have the guts to think and act for ourselves unapologetically, through and through. Jews call it chutzpah (audacity). We fall prey to that famous word in Kigali streets which is ‘ntabwobishoboka’- “it is impossible”.
How do you know that your idea won’t work if you don’t try? The truth is that each of the five East African countries started in the 60’s at par with Singapore and Malaysia and after a mere fifty years, we are at the bottom of the pile while these fellows are first world countries.
What was the major difference? These guys had chutzpah and we did not. Likewise, a group of people conceived the liberation idea that involved a secure, equitable and progressive society. They followed through put the idea into practice. ‘Birashoboka- “it is possible”.
Lesson two; Conquer setbacks, correct mistakes, move on and don’t quit. When your fancy idea hits a roadblock and it does not look good, fix it and move on still. As my people say, if, after consideration, you undertake an activity and somewhere down the line, as reality strikes and you notice that it doesn’t look so smart, remember why you began and complete the task. Robert Kiwosaki’ in his bestseller Rich Dad, Poor Dad says, “quitting is easy, you can always quit later, why quit now? The brave men and women of RPF/A Inkotanyi coulld have quit within the first week of the struggle, it was a ‘sensible’ option. They didn’t. They fixed it and moved on.
Lesson three: Courage and focus. Most liberation struggles in Africa have ended in failure because once one phase of the struggle is over the leaders forget the principles they fought for and start behaving like the very oppressors they threw out.
This is the refreshing thing about the Rwandan leadership. They won the freedom, kept it and enhanced it. The success in the fight against corruption and the near impeccable security didn’t just happen.
They are a result of focus and courage. East Africa’s leaders, both public and private, should stay focused and avoid patronage.
Once you set up and / or start running your enterprise and hit the hardships, don’t be tempted to take illegal and unethical short cuts when it is convenient. While shortcuts work in the short run, that short run is all you will ever have.
Lesson four: Leadership and trust. Leadership here denotes actions of individual not the position. The role of leadership is critical.
The organization/country mirrors the leader. Rwanda has taken a leadership position in the region because the leadership practices what they preach. It makes it the best place to do business. It is no easy role and more of this exemplary leadership is required especially in the business sector.
Sam Kebongo is a Consultant at Serian Ltd.