RWANDA: First Impressions and Client Meetings

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We did our research, we prepared, we traveled, and we arrived. However, no amount of research in the US could prepare us for the experience we would acquire in Africa. Like many of my colleagues, it is my first time in Rwanda. Apart from traveling to Egypt as a kid, I had not been to Africa. So far, it is great here. The people are nice, the atmosphere is great, and the views are amazing.

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Today is a day of client team meetings. As a class, we are focusing on the agriculture industry in Rwanda. From coffee processing to banana wine production, our teams are traveling within the central region today to meet with clients. My team’s client is the Rwanda Development Board directly, and we were received very warmly this morning by three agriculture-focused investment promotion officers. Of the countries in Africa, Rwanda ranks very highly on the ease of starting a business. Like in the US, the start is an exciting process, but from the ideation to operation stages are a number of challenges. We are studying the challenges of small and medium-sized enterprises and are hoping to provide a recommendation that the RDB can use in its business after-care support system.

Since our meeting was in the city and we were done early, we decided to take a ride to the outskirts of Kigali to see another group’s project: a coffee production facility. We got to see first-hand the production facility, from picking the berries to creating the dried coffee beans, in an atmosphere narrated by the owner of the facility. It’s amazing that these facilities were so sustainable that everything was used up: the berry pulp will be used for compost, the beans for coffee, and the excess shells for anything from mulch to animal feed. Honestly, it was good to see that level of care coming from an average business owner.

Exciting? Yes. Frankly, meeting with the Rwanda Development board was an excellent feat. Two days ago, I was in Washington, DC, and now I am in Africa, getting the chance to help Rwanda grow. Even little things will help, and everyone involved is excited. Needless to say, we’re all looking forward to the next few weeks. And it’s not all work…  city tours and industry visits, and even some exotic animal sightings are coming up. I’ll keep you posted!

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