Kigali: Lessons in Stewardship

Stewardship is defined by Merriam-Webster as the conducting, supervising or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. I travelled to Kigali last month for some meetings. I walked up to the counter at the airport and the Immigration Officer greeted me with a smile and welcomed me “back home”. She was surprised when I handed her my Kenyan passport but I knew from that first interaction that it would be a pleasant 4 days.

Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills, an apt description of the landscape. The streets of Kigali are remarkably clean and the landscaping is meticulous. It is hard not to think of Nairobi and compare the two cities. With the upcoming Kenya elections, there is little negative space on poles, walls, even trees. Political posters can be found everywhere, some missing a face, vandalized by the opposing party. It had gotten so bad in the lead up to the primaries last month, that one could find posters plastered on bumps on the road. This is a stark contrast to the situation in Rwanda, a country that is also having elections in August. This level cleanliness and environment responsibility is something that Rwandans take pride in. Whereas leaders can set the precedent, being a steward requires an individual to focus on what would help maintain integrity for the common good of all.

Another proverbial leaf we can borrow from our brothers also pertains to stewardship, although of a different kind. In all our conversations, it was clear that the people of Rwanda feel very strongly about wanting things to be above board. The 2016 Corruption Perception Index which is published by Transparency International, placed Rwanda as third least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa. The Rwanda government has zero tolerance stance on corruption. This was clear in our interactions and the lack of red tape, especially when it came to meeting key decision makers. There is a sense that these values and principles are held true by all, a precedence set by the government. Earlier in the year the Rwanda state minister in charge of socio-economic development, Mr Vincent Munyeshyaka, said that the government believes this aspect of good governance “is a pre-requisite to sustainable economic development, peace and security.”

This economic development is evident as well. Even though Rwanda is a smaller market than Kenya, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown in leaps and bounds. The government has supported this growth by embracing ICT. In 2008, a course on entrepreneurship was introduced in secondary schools. Rwanda’s long term vision led to the start of an initiative that has provided laptops to children and teachers across the country. This move towards tech was evident with the uptake and interest in our online training offering and more interestingly, a leaning to Whatsapp-communication with business professionals. A study done by the Rwanda Ministry of Trade and Industry as a precursor to their 2010 SME Development policy document revealed that close to 98% of private businesses in Rwanda at the time belong to the SME category. Based on our conversations, there are many businesses that are investor ready and organizations like BDF are working to boost SME financing. This is why we are excited to be holding our Corporate Finance and Valuation Financial Modelling Training in Kigali from 14th – 16th June. This course is aimed at equipping learners with skills to make forecasts and conduct valuations on businesses, which is really a way to grow towards responsible management.

What can you do to become a better steward of your time, finances, environment and country? In the words of Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in this world”.