US-based business students look to EAC for inspiration

When you study business from a developed country like the United States (US) where stable investments in infrastructure have become a way of life, a visit to a developing region like East Africa where that kind of investment is taking advantage of available space and transforming lives may sound like an interesting study trip.
Some of the Master of Business Administration students from Stanford Graduate School of Business before meeting President Kagame. The New Times/ Village Urugwiro.
Some of the Master of Business Administration students from Stanford Graduate School of Business before meeting President Kagame. The New Times/ Village Urugwiro.

When you study business from a developed country like the United States (US) where stable investments in infrastructure have become a way of life, a visit to a developing region like East Africa where that kind of investment is taking advantage of available space and transforming lives may sound like an interesting study trip.

That’s how one of the 33 visiting Master of Business Administration students from Stanford Graduate School of Business in California, US, was feeling after meeting President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro, yesterday.

Led by Myron Scholes, a Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at the school and a Nobel Prize winning economist, the students are touring both Rwanda and Kenya as part of an attempt to understand the rapid growth rates and socio- economic changes taking place in East Africa.

Their interest is on how recent investments in infrastructure, information technology, education, and a variety of other sectors have triggered changes in the region’s economy.

One of the students, Susan Lin, who is originally from Australia, described the insights from the President as “very inspiring and educational.”

She said their visit here is opening her eyes about the immense opportunities for foreign direct investments available in Rwanda and the EAC.

The students visited Rwanda’s investment promotion arm, the Rwanda Development Board, and interacted with its managers, including its acting Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi, before meeting President Kagame.

“Before coming here a lot of us had ideas of East Africa and Rwanda and heard about the great economic development and growth that has been going on. I don’t think you really understand it until you’ve seen with your own eyes and able to experience it yourself,” Lin said.

Member countries of the East African Community  (EAC) are on a race to become middle income economies in the next decade or so.

Kenya remains the richest in the region with almost US$800 income per capita, the closest to the international Middle Income target of US$1,240.

But the World Bank estimates that its EAC partners Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania are catching up fast.

Rwanda’s GDP per capita stands at around US$644, according to recent figures.

Rwanda’s economy has been growing at an average slightly above 8 per cent over the last twelve years, with investments significantly going into construction, mining, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), tourism, as well as in services such as banking and insurance.

President Kagame described Rwanda’s Vision 2020 to the students as a vision that Rwandans have owned with a common aim to arrive where they want to be.

“I am not the vision, I am only implementing the vision that we put together as a country. We are working on building institutions that will last beyond any individuals and we are keeping our sight on where we want to be,” he said. “As low as we sank, we have to believe we are the ones to get ourselves out.”

The President noted that Rwanda was surviving on the generosity of the rest of the world but would now like to be at a global level where she works together and lives together with other states rather than being dependent on them.

The students’ trip is focused on investing and doing business in Africa and is part of the Stanford Global Study trip.

“Rwanda is a beacon of stability in the region and the country has made a lot of progress in the last twenty years that I think a lot of countries can learn from, not just in Africa but elsewhere in the world,” said Eric Omwega, one of the students leading others on the trip, and a Kenyan citizen.

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