Monday, November 10, 2014

Rwanda Reflections

I have just spent a pretty special week in Rwanda and thought I would share some insights.

First Impressions of Rwanda

So my brother and co-founder of Zoona and I ended up going to Boarding School from 7 years old in SA and ended up swapping parents and holidays in Singapore and Zambia for our childhood. Having spent time in Singapore as a kid, Kigali bought back a lot of the same memories. On the surface very clean, efficient, and gearing for growth with a big sense of community and purpose – in fact both cities are the only ones I have been in that I have not seen a single piece of litter, anywhere. Below the surface though, you sense an underlying current that the option of towing the line is not really up for debate.
This time last year I was in Mauritius and the Minister of Commerce publically stated his government had Rwanda on their radar as one of the countries that could compete on their national strategies, and having been there I could see why. There is a real commitment and positivity towards investment and growth.

Sharing is Caring

I had a really good conference with Omidyar team and investees. The key difference was that it was driven and focused on sharing and solving problems. Often these events focus on a few smart people talking down to you – which can be pretty draining. This event just put issues on the table and open and transparent conversations followed.
My key takeaways were: be excellent at your core, scale excellence, get focused, attract and maximize talents of A players, and, get serious about your personal and business flow and development as an entrepreneur. These are all key challenges and opportunities faced by so many businesses.

Playing it forward

I was invited to the IT tech hub and got to present to some up and coming tech entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Egypt and Nigeria. Really enjoyed the event and it was awesome to share the Zoona stories and all our ups and downs and to really sense the positive impact on some young talent. Mentorship and sharing small success stories like ours can help create more and more people who are committed to change in Africa.

Hitting a brick wall

While we were in Kigali we spent an afternoon at the Genocide Memorial. Like many of us I have been fortunate and blessed to have a pretty normal and even privileged life.
The visit to the memorial was something that had a profound impact on me. In brief, 700,000 men, woman and children were systematically and brutally murdered, mutilated and raped in a blink. The memorial was set up to remember, respect and reconcile. When I walked out at the end, going through the child chamber, the only words that I can use to describe me was...I was an empty shell and really felt my soul was crushed.
For the rest of the day and night I felt really lost. The next morning I started to feel my batteries recharging. Sitting in a room with all the other Omidyar investees it was just so clear that good people trying to do good things is all that really matters. I know we rightfully talk about bottom line and revenue growth...These are all so key and critical but so too is the impact a business can have.

I really am humbled and celebrate the impact we, as a team, have in Africa. The more we grow and scale, the greater that impact will be. So as much as we are motivated and driven by our business success we should also know that the positive impact Zoona has on individuals, communities and countries, and maybe one day a continent, is certainly something to ponder on.

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