Rwanda has blue oceans just waiting to be created. Seriously, it does.Not red or green ones, but blue oceans. It is this that makes investment and entrepreneurship in Rwanda today an exciting, exploratory and often rewarding venture.
The term ‘blue oceans’ is one I came across during my post-graduate studies for a course that, to this day, I found quite unorthodox.
I say unorthodox because the course was fun and thoroughly enjoyable, which is not supposed to be the case with school.
Or is it? The use of crayons and making paper planes was a regular activity, which often had me wondering about my future employability.
In retrospect, I see how the seeds of lateral thinking were planted in most of the students; a key objective of our professors and which I have observed, is a central ingredient in entrepreneurial success.
‘Blue oceans’ is a term that was coined by the authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, and which I think can be used to describe a large portion of Rwanda’s market space.
To understand what ‘blue oceans’ are, allow me to first describe the term ‘red oceans’. According to Kim and Mauborgne, the market universe consists of both red oceans and blue oceans.
Red oceans represent all the industries in existence today – all known market space. In the red oceans, companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of existing demand.
As the market space gets crowded, potential profits and growth is reduced and ruthless competition turns the ocean bloody. Makes you think of piranhas fighting for a small piece of meat, doesn’t it?
Blue oceans on the other hand, refer to all the industries not in existence today - unknown market space.
Blue oceans, in contrast, are defined by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth. In blue oceans, competition is irrelevant because the rules of the game are waiting to be set.
Of course, red oceans form a large part of the market space in Rwanda, as seen with the number of companies and businesses that adopt the traditional red ocean strategy, operating in known industries that are risk averse.
Red oceans, as Kim and Mauborgne say, will always be relevant. But, it is through tapping into the unknown that we create new industries – that we create blue oceans.
I remember reading this and struggling to sit still because of excitement, thinking of the unexplored opportunities at home. As our private sector grows, I think that a blue ocean strategy or mindset has great potential to enlarge our current market space by creating more industries which in turn will contribute to the growth of our economy.
I also think, dear reader, that it is fitting to place a disclaimer at this point, stating that these are personal observations and not based on an economic background, of which I have none.
The reality is that industries are dynamic, and there is a serious underestimation on the ability to create new industries and re-create existing ones.
Picture this scenario, simplistically put. If a Rwandan entrepreneur was to think out of the box (laterally) and create a business operating in largely unexplored industry such as the arts and theatre industry (which in my opinion is tragically untouched), there is a possibility that their business would gradually create demand and subsequently, garner profits.
Observing this, other players would be prompted to replicate the same business based on its profitability and before you know it, a viable and profitable arts and theatre industry will have been established in Rwanda in less than a decade. All because of a visionary, blue ocean-thinking entrepreneur.
Fifteen years ago, if someone told you that tourism would be Rwanda’s leading foreign exchange earner, would you have believed it?
Keep in mind we do not have the sandy beaches of Mombasa, the game reserves of Tanzania or the varied terrain of South Africa. Someone simply had the ‘blue ocean’ idea to tap into this unknown industry and look how far it has come today.
That said, the crux of the matter remains how to formulate and execute a blue ocean strategy across a broad spectrum of businesses in Rwanda.