23 Oct

Roundtable of Outsourcing Heavyweights Discuss Rwanda’s Prospects As A GBS Hub For CX & IT

Voiced by Amazon Polly

German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit—or GIZ for short, has released a revealing new study authored by development consultant Elvis Melia called “Rwandan Jobs in the Digital Era” that explores employment opportunities in emerging digital activities for young Rwandans. They also released an accompanying podcast episode on “Digital transformation in Rwanda” featuring an interview with Melia.

Giz consultant Elvis Melia has conducted extensive research on Rwanda's economic potential. (photo: Loren Moss
Giz consultant Elvis Melia has conducted extensive research on Rwanda’s economic potential. (photo: Loren Moss

The small African country of approximately 13 million has set as a strategic goal the development of an export-oriented professional services sector. Other African countries such as Egypt and South Africa have already demonstrated success as outsourcing destinations, primarily for Europe, but also serving a North American audience, and other global areas.

The Rwandan government has mandated English as the country’s official language along with the native Kinyarwanda language spoken at home, and prioritized education and infrastructure. The results are tangible. Tek Experts has opened a high level technical support operation in the capital of Kigali servicing North American enterprise data storage equipment providers, and BPO firm CCI, already a leader in Africa, has made the commitment to operating in Rwanda.

Analyst and researcher Loren Moss was part of a recent delegation to the Rwandan capital of Kigali to explore the country’s prospects for becoming a serious player in the Global Business Services (GBS) sector. Colleagues and outsourcing luminaries who accompanied him on the trip joined him for a discussion on Rwanda’s potential, and challenges to overcome.

Joining Loren on the following discussion are:

The video discussion is playable above. A text version follows below.

Loren Moss: I want to thank the panel for joining me today. All of us shared a trip recently to Kigali, Rwanda and I think for most of us, not all of us—I know that a couple of you have some experience there already and have looked at the investing conditions. But for the rest of us it’s been kind of an initial trip and what we want to do on this discussion is discuss our takeaways and to discuss what we found as Rwanda has stated that they, and the purpose for our visit was because they want to develop a professional services sector focusing on outsourcing and that may include IT services.

We saw that there are some IT support services already being delivered from Rwanda. And also of course, call center services, so if we could maybe briefly just go around with your takeaways just briefly and just give us your first impression, and then we’ll get down into the…or for those of you that have been there already just give us a brief—maybe if you were writing like a one or two paragraph of what your main impression was- that you came away from the trip.

And I’ll start by saying I had never really thought about Rwanda other than, especially being on this side of the Atlantic. I think the majority of you all are over there in Europe or in Africa actually, but I never thought about Rwanda. We heard about Rwanda often throughout the decades. I never really had any opinion, good or bad, about it. I couldn’t really tell you much about Rwanda for whatever positive reputation they have that might come from the tourism that they have, with their natural resources, with their safaris and things like that, but really I see that the country is at their very beginning stages of attempting to develop a professional services sector.

They don’t have a lot of experience in there. I think they brought us in to get our opinions and candid feedback and to maybe open that dialogue. And I think they can do what they claim they want to do if they stay the course. We look at success stories, on this side of the Atlantic where I have most of my experience, Costa Rica was able to build a very impressive IT outsourcing sector. Jamaica started from zero and was able to build a successful contact center business and so I think that Rwanda can do it but obviously they’re starting almost from scratch and have a long way to go. So I’d like to get your opinions, from the rest of the panel.

Simon Danczuk: Thanks for that. Yeah, well, I was struck by— I had a very positive experience from the country. I’m going back there later this month to spend two weeks there on business, etcetera. I particularly liked the political stability and the fact that there’s a government. They have the determination to succeed and so I thought that was very positive. I think there’s a lot of support from government in terms of helping the private sector become increasingly established there, so that’s a positive. I think they need to build a more positive image outside of the country so that people are more familiar with the positive sorts of attributes that it has. And then, on the slight negative, I’ve always had problems with – in terms of broadband connectivity and I did worry whether that’s as good as they talk about it being there and whether that’s an issue for the country or whether it can be improved or whether it’s specific to certain parts in Kigali or whatever I don’t know. But that’s something that I thought might need addressing.

Loren Moss: Great. Rolana?

Rolana Rashwan: For me I also had – going in I didn’t have any perception like you, so whether negative or positive I had no idea. And when I googled it, it was just the genocide. But for me it was just an eye-opening experience like it was very positive. It was very – looking like a very good developing country in any part of the world. I like the idea of them being…starting to try doing it the professional way, attracting the right experts to hear from them and genuinely seeking feedback to understand what the way is forward. I also liked their women empowerment!

I saw lots of women so basically, we are all around the table. The experts weren’t only men, so on their side was the minister, the head of the RDB, all the team that was working. So, this is something that I also liked. What else? Do you want to give first our perception and then maybe our takeaways and recommendations? Or how do you want to go?

Loren Moss: I just wanted to really start by just giving a paragraph or two from you, and then what we want to do is go into for example my next question is going to be so the government says that they want to build this sector, where do they need to focus? But before we do that and before we get into that I want to also get the opinion for example of at least the beginning impression from Steve, if you could share yours?

Steve Weston: Yeah, I agree with quite a bit of what’s been said. There were several things that stood out for me. Like everyone, all I knew about Rwanda was the genocide that occurred and because of that I was just so pleasantly surprised when we arrived, about the energy, the modernization of their economy, stability of government. That stood out right away. I like the fact that the government officials not only wanted our feedback but based on the questions they were asking us, they truly are looking for guidance and I believe truly is going to take that guidance and make it actionable because I really believe they’re very serious about building a BPO network for their country. Lastly, the people we met, on the tour especially, the technology folks full of energy, a can-do attitude, well educated, well spoken, really understood the industry that they were working in and had a lot of great ideas for how to move it forward and to better the overall BPO marketplace there.

Loren Moss: Great. David?

David Rumble: Yeah, I think just again, echo what the other guys said. I arrived with having done a few bits of due diligence on the country and I guess my perceptions initially were essentially it was going to be an arbitrage export opportunity, straightforward high volume, you know, kind of high touch high velocity customer management but I left—that definitely isn’t the space that Rwanda is going to be operating in. I think, like Rolana, I was super impressed with the transparency and the empowerment that they’ve got across whole groups of society. I think that was exceptionally powerful and would land well with any western investor.

I think the most important thing for me was their investment readiness, the transparency in government, all of the stuff that they’ve done in enabling government to be operating digitally and reach out you know, internationally to look for best practice in terms of an investment arising so this investor the security of that investment probably – well, certainly from my perspective, I came back with a very much higher degree of confidence in their ability to attract and more importantly retain investment from western businesses in terms of that. So, I think, from my perspective, it’s a much more investment-ready location to look at than I perhaps thought, but probably much more in a kind of a low-volume higher skill because they’re clearly building a capability that is much more focused at the top end rather than kind of the high volume transactional end.

Loren Moss: Great and Andrew?

Andrew Wrobel: I think I would mention three things and some of the things will basically echo what has already been said, but the talent is the first thing. So, I was really impressed by the fact that we met all these women, especially women, because there were mostly women at the company that we visited and, you know, the enthusiasm and the commitment and readiness to actually make a change. that was something that was really impressive. The other thing would be, and that has already been said as well to an extent, the openness and, you know, working with some of the Central European countries I can see that or I can hear there often that people or government know what they want to do, what they have to do. They know better, they don’t listen to other people’s opinions. In here, it felt like everyone was really receptive, and they wanted to understand better, and they wanted to hear what we were going to tell them. And I think the third thing would be this agility, in a way. I mean, we experienced a couple of situations that were…that made the people, the organizers specifically, change things right away. You remember the wind and then the rain when we were sitting in the morning at the session and within literally five minutes everything was arranged, and it feels like it’s not only that one occasion it seems like there were other things like that as well. And going to Rwanda I didn’t have any expectations. I mean, I’ve visited quite a few different places around the world and what that has taught me is that you should never have any expectations and that’s how I approached Rwanda, and I was very positively surprised.

Rolana Rashwan: You got my point about the contingency. I was going to reflect on this. Because it was amazing when I was like ‘Oh what’s going to happen with our panel? We don’t have a plan.’ And everything was swiftly prepared, yes.

Loren Moss: Mark?

Mark Angus: Yes, thank you. Thanks. So, again what everybody has said. The thing that struck me, just like Dave, I really had a different impression before going there and when I got there my impression of the country changed quite significantly. Definitely a boutique services location. And the ability to play in the higher end of servicing. But what really struck me was the readiness and willingness to learn to grow to relearn and continue to grow and continue to scale. You almost got the sense of oneness and unity as a nation and they’re moving in a certain direction. They like things, for example the growing the GBS sector, they all move in one direction. And that’s something I think that they capitalize on in various, many ways.

And it also speaks to what Andrew said about their talent, excellent quality talent when we got when we went to Tek Experts, and we were able to sit with them and converse with them we were very impressed. They’re playing up English as a language skill. I do feel they should also play up the francophone component and to also focus on French talent and developing their capability. And then the other thing was the whole talk that we had around the base incentive scheme or the incentive scheme in general and I know there was a lot of heated debate around that, and what…again, just how adaptable they were in that process. So, they put forward the incentive scheme and everybody had their say on what’s working and what’s not working and I think there’s an end result I can confirm and Dave can confirm was that there’s a base incentive scheme in place, but they’re willing to customize options for specific players as they come into the market, and I think that’s a very good play.

Country Manager Gary Bennett is emphatic about the success Tek Systems is having in Kigali, Rwanda (photo: Loren Moss)
Country Manager Gary Bennett is emphatic about the success Tek Systems is having in Kigali, Rwanda (photo: Loren Moss)

Loren Moss: Martin?

Martin Roe: So, I’d been to Rwanda a couple of times before and the reason I went on this trip was to make a decision, yes or no as to whether or not we think that Rwanda’s got the capability to be a reasonably scaled player and be part of our network of delivery centers. For me it was kind of the almost conclusion of a journey as to whether or not we were going to do it or we were not going to do it. So, subsequent to that session we have decided that we are going to do it. So, we’ve made quite a lot of progress actually since we were out in Rwanda. We’ve formed a company there and we’re in discussion with the government.

It’s interesting that you mention the kind of role the women play from a government perspective, they’ve been very difficult to get hold of. Because they’ve been in Davos first of all. And then they were last week hosting a gigantic summit of commonwealth nations, which is indicative, I suppose, of the power of Rwanda on the global stage for a very small country. So, we’ve decided to do it. However, there are still some—how you would describe them: ‘known unknowns.’ So, I think, for us, practical reality is everything. So, what kind of activities are most suitable for Rwanda I don’t think we know. How scalable is it? I don’t think we know. What’s the cost? I don’t think we know. And the decision that we’ve made as a company is that we can’t spend too long running round in circles trying to answer those questions. Instead, we’re going to do it. So, we’re going to do something. The other side of the coin as I said to them and was quite vocal about it, the problem I’ve got is it’s not up to me, it’s up to my clients, my customers, my partners and my view was this is going to be a pretty hard sell. How am I going to do it?

And the good news is we’ve done it. So, we’ve actually got a couple of customers that have agreed to go to Rwanda with us. So, it’ll be small in the short term, a hundred FTEs (full time equivalent seats) probably. For the first few months where we can start to iron out these questions, you know? So, we’ve even got a bit of French, Mark, to see whether or not…we’re primarily anglophone but we’ll try a bit of French. So, we’re going to do something. And in fact, this week we hired a guy who’s going to run it for us so we’ve hired a – he’s on NDA so I can’t tell you who he is, but we’ve spent a lot of money, which is again indicative of how important we think Rwanda is. So, we’ve made a lot of progress since we all met in Kigali.

Mark Angus: Martin – Sorry, do you mind if I just ask Martin a question? So, Martin, did they also work on customizing the incentives for you?

Martin Roe: Yeah, we’re still working on it, truth be told. And they’ve been super flexible, so I’ve put or we’ve put together some of the things that we think are important, that we would hope they can accommodate, I think they will accommodate it. But in the spirit of partnership and trust rather than do everything sequentially, so we need to get the incentives sorted out then we’ll go and hire somebody, then we’ll set up a company and all the rest of it. We’ve done everything at the same time so the truth is no we haven’t, but I have a high degree of confidence that we will. I also now think that from my side of the bargain which is creating jobs that now that I’ve won a couple of deals, we’ve won a couple of deals I think that we’ve got skin in the game, so I do think the government there—and if you remember the chap from RDB (Rwanda Development Board) was Pacific (Tuyishime), he in particular will be able to pull this together. So, I think in the next four weeks we’ll be in a position where that’s sorted. The guy that we hired is going out there in two weeks to find us a building and as we start the [inaudible] out and so on.

Loren Moss: Great. I want to welcome Stephen Loynd to the panel, of TrendzOwl Consulting. Stephen is the founder; he is a longtime industry analyst. Stephen if you can just briefly give like a one paragraph and we’re going to get into some detail here, but give us a one paragraph takeaway. If somebody comes to you, somebody in the business and says how was Rwanda? Give us an introduction one paragraph takeaway when it comes to your impressions of Rwanda obviously from a BPO and professional services perspective.

Stephen Loynd: Thank you, Loren, for having me. Apologies for hopping on late. I think that the thing that comes to mind for me is that it utterly confounded my expectations. When I arrived there, I was consistently impressed by the environment, the positive environment, it seems to me, for investment, and of course I’m sure we’ll go into more details but that would be the thing that comes to mind confounded my expectations in a positive way.

Loren Moss: Great. So, Simon, if the government in Rwanda wants to build this sector as they say that they do, we were there and what they said was very impressive. They showed us that they have some of the seeds there. What should they prioritize? So, there’s obviously a lot to be done. We talked about infrastructure at least from where Steve and I are and where I know Mark is based, some of the time, the connectivity is not ideal from this side of the Atlantic, from the North American perspective. You guys know some of the adventures that I had getting back from Rwanda. It’s a lot better of course from Europe; I think a lot of you guys were able to take direct flights into the UK. I flew through Turkey there in Africa, I know that the connectivity is a lot better but if the government wants to build this sector what should they prioritize? Simon, if we could start with you.

Simon Danczuk: I think there are people in this group who have a better knowledge and understanding of answering this question, but for what it’s worth I think some of what’s been said, focusing on the offer in terms of what sort of companies they want to attract and what sort of sectors they could support and that might be around targeting tech companies perhaps in terms of potential clients for contact centers. Content moderation I think might be a possibility. More broadly I think there’s something around the Commonwealth, so certainly the UK, they’ve got CHOGM coming up here where they’re hosting again a major summit later this month. And I think they clearly have a desire to be more heavily linked with the Commonwealth, and that’s been shown, and so potentially talked in countries within the Commonwealth, at least the United Kingdom I think could be a sort of broad angle that they could take as well. So, I’ve started small but gotten bigger in terms of what sorts of emphasis they could have in terms of attracting business.

Loren Moss: Rolana, you have played a major role—you would never say this yourself—I know you’re far too modest, but you know something about building from an investment promotion agency point of view, you know something about building a sector, as you have played a large role in the success that Egypt has had…But Egypt is regional country there in Africa—a different part of Africa with a different history and circumstances, but I’m really interested to know what you think, So, if you had that role and you were in Rwanda, where would you start? If you sat down with the president and you said: ‘Here’s what we need to do, and here’s what we need to do first,’ as somebody with an IPA (Investment Promotion Agency perspective, where would you start?

Rolana Rashwan: I would put it differently. I’m not going to say the markets, but I would rather not think about…let’s start with what’s already there. So, they already have some kind of good brands like Tek Experts. I would start to see who is there because companies are looking for the success of other companies. So, if they are to attract the big ones, they need to have anchor clients. So looking at starting to attract anchor clients, but also look at what is already there but not providing offshoring services and open the discussion. Another area I think is also very important is to align other government efforts. So they are doing lots of efforts in the tourism sector, so if they can align their efforts of the tourism [sector] and try to attract tourist players to also have their offshoring services out in Rwanda, I think this could also be a good start to trigger it ,and then once it starts and once it sparks, everything becomes easier then.

Loren Moss: Great. Mr. Weston?

Steve Weston: Yeah, I piggyback on that from a PR perspective, they’ve got to get the message out about who they are and because again, all of us came in and had a very different perception than when we left, that message has got to—and that you know, will be a game changer in terms of attracting people. Yes, you’re right, not only for the sector, for tourism and for other areas.

Two, I’m putting the pressure on Martin because what was just said, having a major BPO like CCI there is going to be – I think also if they’re successful, will be a game changer in terms of attracting others because they are kind of the pilot program.

Loren Moss: Great. David, what’s your perspective on this?

David Rumble: I concur with Steve’s comment. I think my expectations in terms of value proposition would be you know, they were pretty much the same story as all the other countries in Africa that there’s an arbitrage opportunity and I think in the current environment where we’re going with much more balanced sourcing with much higher integrity, you know, picking up on impact sourcing, picking up on the stuff that goes into diversity, managing diversity, socially responsible outsourcing, buildings that we saw didn’t have air conditioning, so from an environmental impact perspective you’re not draining the planet of its resources.

The delegation pays respects to the victims at the Rwanda Genocide Memorial in Kigali (photo: Loren Moss)
The delegation pays respects to the victims at the Rwanda Genocide Memorial in Kigali (photo: Loren Moss)

So, I think you know, they need to be very clear about that value proposition. I mean in the news today 90% of the women in India are excluded from work. That’s a number one offshore destination on the Ryan Advisory Report; for the UK you know that doesn’t look good for client perceptions of organizations that are bending sourcing to meet that type of capacity.

So, I think for me, Rwanda has got to position itself in that way, and then potentially if it’s got the opportunity to do it as a gateway to East Africa, and that fundamentally is going to be a large population scaling in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, some of those other countries where there is less stability in government and there’s an investor looking at those locations, you know, a lot more fragility.

I don’t want to speak – obviously I’ve got a major position in Kenya but some of these other countries are far less developed, so I think for me that’s the immediacy of our sector which is addressing all of this stuff that goes into integrity procurement in sourcing and then the bigger point, the bigger play which is beyond our sector, and much more into being an access point and a gateway to East Africa. Which I think…I mean they’re on a journey to do that, they are definitely punching above their weight. You know, representation at Davos (World Economic Forum), CHOGM. You know, they joined the Commonwealth. They are an anglophone country and we saw that, so what better place to start with than those in terms of bilateral conversations? I think they’ve got a lot going for them for a small country.

Loren Moss: Yeah, I think they’re like the size of Massachusetts more or less. It’s not as big as…you know, people think about African countries, and they think they’re these big vast places. It’s not always the case. Andrew, what are your thoughts?

Andrew Wrobel: I think I will again echo David’s words here about positioning because when we were there it wasn’t really clear who or what kind of companies they were trying to target, so I think being a little bit more clear, a little bit clearer here, that would definitely help. And I think also trying to look at the experiences of countries which were in a similar situation. So, perhaps the size, perhaps the value proposition.

Also looking at the perception, when we were still in Kigali, I was saying that perhaps looking at the experiences of smaller countries in Central Europe could also help in defining that value proposition. And perhaps targeting also those companies based there, because it seems a lot of them are starting to struggle with talent, so perhaps those skills that are needed and available in Rwanda could be delivered there. Perhaps the cost would also be way lower than in Central and Eastern Europe. So, I think that could be something to think about for the government.

Loren Moss: Great. Andrew just as much as I think of you as my go to guy for central and eastern Europe, Mark Angus is my subject matter expert in Africa when I have a question about something when it comes to services in Africa. So, Mark I really am interested in your opinion on where the government should prioritize things.

Mark Angus: Thanks Loren and thank you, thanks for the kind words. I think I remember actually as part of the panel, we were asked to think about the most important practical steps for the government to take right now with the sector. Top of the list for me, and just hearing everybody’s comments I think it’s really needed, is to develop the size and nature of the BPO and contact center industry or the broader GBS sector. They need to do some research. We need to know numbers, we need to know scalability, we need to know where the talent sits, what their expertise is, and we need to know where they can tap into additional talent.

To Dave’s point, that could happen to the East Africa market to draw in more talent. And in that regard have a dual strategy focusing regionally and internationally, bringing in regional workers; they already are doing by landing African GBS players into the country but then also targeting international work. So, they need a country strategy to do that, and they need case studies on some of the players that are already there and the successes they’re enjoying. I must let you know, we’ve been asked to do some case studies for them and in fact I’m going back there. I’ll be back in Rwanda again just to meet with some of key stakeholders and the point of that would be to generate some case studies for them on the sector. So, they are looking at doing that. But I think what’s sorely needed is the research. We don’t know the size, nature of the sector.

Loren Moss: Great, that kind of ties into what Martin said earlier that there are known unknowns and that you can have analysis paralysis and wait until all your questions are going to be answered, but that’s not going to happen because the experience isn’t there, right? So, Martin what’s you take on this? As somebody who is active or at the early stages, where should the government prioritize from your point of view as an operator?

“We took into consideration, the lack of corruption and the ease of doing business, the government support, the education of people and so on and so forth.” – Martin Roe, CCI Global

Mark Angus: I think they’re doing the right thing in trying to entice us to go and do it, because you need somebody who’s got some scale and credibility but at the same time it is entrepreneurial and prepared to take a risk. And we’re probably that company in order that we can generate those case studies that Mark talks about because it is in everybody’s interest that case studies are produced that are viable success stories because that will then enable me to grow my Rwandan business. I think first of all, they’re doing the right thing in that regard, and they’ve been very flexible in terms of what the proposition is, because I don’t think they know, and that’s not necessarily a criticism, because how can they know?

I don’t think they can possibly know because it’s chicken and egg. You actually need some people to be doing some work out there in order to say: ‘These guys, they’re content moderation experts,’ or in fact voice or data – I don’t know. So, what we’re going to do is do a little bit of everything and then try and get levels and get to an understanding of what’s the best and most appropriate. And as horrible as this sounds, it’s important, the most profitable way to move forward for us.

So, I think that they’ve done the right thing in trying to land one and I think they land one, and the good thing about us is that if it goes wrong, it’s our fault rather than their fault and we’ll just get up and try something else until it actually works. But as you’ve seen we’re all pretty convinced, aren’t we? That the raw material exists, it’s just a matter of somebody going out there and doing it. So I think they’ve done the right thing in that sense. Whether the incentives turn out to be the right incentives, I don’t know, we’re going to have a heavy focus on training and development and on the support and subsidy for that. It might be that we don’t need that, it might be that the people are so fantastic.

We’re doing something in Ethiopia believe it or not, and at the moment and the level of training at the moment it seems to be almost zero to get people up to speed so it might be the same. But yeah, I think they’ve done the right thing in finding one – catch a sprat to catch a mackerel, I think the saying is—whether we’re a sprat or not I don’t know.

Loren Moss: [Laughs]. Stephen Loynd, what should be the top priority for the government as they attempt to build this sector?

Stephen Loynd: Yeah, I think my sentiments would rhyme with what I’m hearing. The idea is grounded around some real case studies, I think from a perspective of the US and there would be three particular hopes, which would really interest me on this side of the Atlantic.

The first one is this idea of the youth, the talent of the youth, something like 70% are under 30. I forget the young lady’s name, but she gave great articulate explanation, talent is in Kigali. It’s very raw, there’s a transition period she explained where they can learn and adapt, and you really shouldn’t’ rush the process. There are no shortcuts, but the youth are driven to learn and it’s second to none compared to upscaling and a host of other countries. So, that kind of honesty I think would be really authentic and effective. That’s the first hook.

The second hook might even a little bit more distinct when it comes to making Rwanda a little bit different even from the countries around it in that region of the world and that is this idea of security from an Americans’ perspective. I think they shared the statistic that Kigali is the safest country or city to walk around in at night worldwide which is startling, and I’d have to corroborate that, but I myself walked throughout alone the city just to get a sense for it and indeed I felt very secure. There’s definitely a security presence but I did not feel at all concerned about my safety, and I think that that would…you can get some interesting case studies or discussions around that.

Rwanda is famous for being very safe. Locals and foreigners stroll the graffiti-free streets of the capital Kigali well into the night.
Rwanda is famous for being very safe. Locals and foreigners stroll the graffiti-free streets of the capital Kigali well into the night. (photo: Loren Moss)

And then the third hook that I think would relate hopefully to the second one is this idea of trust. The idea that you know, they’re really making an effort to make this a place that you can trust…where issues of corruption are not a significant concern. I mean, no place is perfect, but this really stuck out for me when I was there. So, those are kind of the three hooks or themes that I would want to hear about as an American interested in investing there. And of course, if you could get people there to see it, I think that really kind of shocks you in a sense that you really begin to realize what’s happening there and you read more about it. So, those are kind of my main ideas.

Loren Moss: I want to chime in here before we move on. One thing that I’m surprised we haven’t heard yet at least, you know, the exact phrase is impact sourcing. Rwanda, when we were there they took us to visit the genocide memorial and it was a very stirring experience, and I think that one of the things that we saw is that there is a national unity to build the country beyond that, and to build a…and to define themselves beyond…a lot of us we just googled Rwanda and it’s either gorillas or genocide. And I think that, with the country, I remember the statistics said something like 90% of the population makes less than—it might’ve been like a thousand US dollars a month—it was a really low number. I think the average professional, or the average wage, median income was something like $200 US dollars a month for skilled labor! Not for unskilled labor! And so, I think that there’s so much that can be done, as now it’s like all outsourcing should be impact sourcing. I think that can manifest itself in different ways. We talked about how it’s very true, I think that Rwanda has a reputation for very low corruption, and it also has a reputation for very high inclusion of women in leadership roles and I think those two things go together, OK? There was a case in Mexico where they replaced all their parking police with women because the women wouldn’t steal the money from the meters!

But I think that impact sourcing also is an area that as the country defines itself to the professional services community whether that’s shared services, outsourcing or customer contact, that there is a real story that can be told there when it comes to the impact sourcing.

The country is still largely agricultural even if people become highly educate, Stephen you and I had some interesting conversations with Dr. Innocent Rusagara, I don’t know if I said his name correctly. But he went away to study and the problem is that even if you—I mean, he runs a contact center, but he has a Ph.D in mathematics—and the problem is there is not really much opportunity for a Ph.D in Mathematics in Rwanda. There were no universities, there was a Belgian, a very limited one, up until I think the 60s or 70s. So, I was all for that impact sourcing, I think could be something that the government should include in its attempt to define itself and its value proposition.

Dr. Innocent Rusagara shows off the headquarters of the Worldwide E-Learning Institute, an integrated training and outsourcing operation servicing international corporate clients.
Dr. Innocent Rusagara shows off the headquarters of the Worldwide E-Learning Institute, an integrated training and outsourcing operation servicing international corporate clients.

Now if we ask where Rwanda could potentially find its place in the professional services ecosystem. Who should seriously consider Rwanda? What circumstances—you know, you have companies where—and for example I know that people say ‘OK we need scale so we need to go to these big countries, we need expertise so we need to go to these countries, or these language skills’ but Steve Weston, in your mind, what would be, from what we know so far—and obviously there’s still a lot of unknowns—a company, whether that’s an outsourcer or a company looking to do things internally should maybe consider Rwanda in what circumstance?

Steve Weston: Wow, that’s a great question because what we saw there if I remember correctly was more in the tech area if I remember – is that right guys?

Loren Moss: Yes, outsourcing- they were doing technical support. It was impressive. They were doing technical service for network attached storage (NAS) devices which they…Linux engineers and these sort of things

Steve Weston: Right. Yeah, I mean that’s you know, – and the people we met were quite impressive. Especially from an educational perspective and knowledge perspective of that industry. And you know, I’m struggling a little bit because that’s all we saw and there is nothing else there. And so, I would feel comfortable in recommending that type of work from what we know now. Again, Martin you – you know, you’re probably going to open up other areas which will be for case studies and broaden out the number – the types of work that can be done down there.

Loren Moss: Yeah, Martin. You guys made a green light decision on Rwanda and you had already been on the path before we all met in Kigali. What were the factors where you said, ‘OK Rwanda is ideal, or the best choice for what we’re trying to do?’

Martin Roe: So, we’d been looking at Rwanda for years and we looked at a lot of other countries. And all the things that everybody’s talked about on this call, we took into consideration, the lack of corruption and the ease of doing business, the government support, the education of people and so on and so forth. That’s’ kind of the format, if you like, that we went through. We worked with external consultants who helped us gather some of that data, but in our experience, you don’t really know until you do it. So, we entered Kenya as an example, a number of years ago, and our expectation was its relatively highly educated and therefore would be more akin to technical and sales…We’ve been surprised that our sales operations in Kenya are more successful than our operations in South Africa. Which for us is—therefore means all the countries that we’re going to operate in will try a bit of everything. I think that’s also quite important if you want to reach real scale and not overly pigeonholed.

So, I mean, we’re a full service outsourcer, we do some of everything. And in our experience our customers want to see that. You know, it’s not very narrow to tech support. So, in Ethiopia, as an example, Ethiopia has the most technically skilled population in the whole of Africa. They’ve got a quarter of a million STEM graduates a year in Ethiopia. We’re actually starting – and we know that’s great, good enough to do tech, yes. But we’re starting Ethiopia on sales alright just to see whether or not we can make that work.

So, again, you never know until you know, and so that’s what we’re going to do. And again, as I said, I’ve got some very friendly clients who are going to go on that journey with us and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. So, we’re doing some…in Rwanda we’re going to be doing some data annotation, pretty simple stuff. We’re going to be doing a little bit of sales and we’re going to be doing…and this is in the first couple of three months, and then we’re going to do some inbound customer care. And all of them are going to be US (oriented).

So, that’s kind of another thing that we need to test. Is Kigali capable of supporting a nighttime economy? Because at the moment there’s nobody doing it. And that’s another thing that we had to test in Nairobi for example. Nairobi does not have a culture of night shifts full stop. And then we had to create one, and can we do the same thing again in Kigali? I don’t know. Because obviously that would…if that’s not possible, it massively limits the market to only servicing the European time zone market and that’s not where the volume is.

Loren Moss: You know, it’s interesting you mention that Ethiopia. I have two close friends from Ethiopia and one of them happens to be a senior executive with Intel and the other one happens to be a senior executive with IBM, and I never really put the two together, but you’re right, you’re right. You know, Ethiopia, I didn’t realize it was such a concerted effort, but Ethiopia does have a strength there in IT that I’ve probably, being focused on this side of the Atlantic was less aware of. Simon what’s your take on the proper role for, or maybe the sweet spot. Where could the potential sweet spot be for Rwanda?

Simon Danczuk: So, thinking about the discussion we’ve had so far, I got to thinking about what the offer was whether there was a requirement for more detail around the sort of path line of the workforce that’s coming forward. So we know, I think the population is 13 million people it’s a very densely populated country, but the vision that we’ve had, We learned something about what the potential was in the workforce, but I wonder whether we need to learn more, or whether they need a better African model of bringing people froward to be able to work in this sector.

And I wonder if the government could do more in relation to mapping that out, in showing the pipeline of who would be coming forward. We know it’s a young country, but I wondered whether there was a need to do more around that whole skill set, build on impact sourcing, related to that. But just show a strong…is it going to be built with lots of tech skills, do they have language skills, what is the offer? What are the people coming forward (capable of), and can they do more? Can the government do more in terms of talking about that? That just struck me while we’re having the conversation we’ve been having.

Loren Moss: You know, I think that that’s interesting because it bridges what the government’s role is and then what the country’s natural strengths and areas of advantage can be.

Rolana, you have experience in taking a country and helping to position it as far as saying ‘hey for IT services this is what Egypt’s value proposition is’ and you’ve been successful in doing that. When you look at Rwanda, what do you say ‘Rwanda could do really well focusing on’ – fill in the blank? Where is Rwanda’s potential? From somebody who not only has the investment promotion perspective but also being regional to Africa.

Rolana Rashwan: You don’t know until you actually work and now it’s too soon to say, but what I also know is that providers are already…the isolation between the BPOs (Business Process Outsourcers) and the ITOs (Information Technology Outsourcers) became somehow blurred. So, they are like converging. Now you see customers…so the BPO customers are also demanding higher tech stuff and they need to have the skills enabled and the trust and everything. So, things are being integrated. So, I believe that there are lots of players who actually offer the entire spectrum. So, those players would be good ones to start with because they will test it out very shortly.

This will be prevalent if it’s easy to move on and expand in the IT part, or expand maybe in the sales part, or whatever. And I think also from the profile of a client or a…I mean an investor that they would like to attract. I think also entrepreneurial mindset investors would be easier to attract rather than the very legacy ones. So, the example of CCI, they ventured into Kenya, and they ventured into Rwanda, so this type of organization, that they are agile, and they are thinking of taking decisions. These would be the ones that would be easier to attract.

Loren Moss: Great and I know you all have been generous with your time. I know we’re coming up on the hour. I do have one more question that I want to get to but if anybody has to jump off, I do understand. But before we go to the last question, I want to get Stephen Loynd, your perception talking to outsourcing clients in the US or maybe even carrier services or internal operation companies, when would you say ‘hey maybe you ought to take a look at Rwanda?’ Who would you say that to?

Stephen Loynd: Well, one example might be, as I listen to the conversation and the point you made Loren a few minutes ago. From the perspective of a BPO: here’s a unique location that might allow them to talk about how they’re empowering women in particular, because it’s such a strong pool of that type of talent in Rwanda. And this makes me think of Tom Peter’s a management guy, just watched a video last night of his new book and one of the big points he’s hammering on is that on average women are better leaders. And if you’ve read Tom Peters’ last couple of books, he’s drilling this point. So, maybe there’s an opportunity, one way of saying, for BPOs in particular to be able to say, ‘Hey this is part of our portfolio, and this is part of what makes it distinct.’

Loren Moss: Mark, what’s your perspective as you look at…you’ve got clients there and you might say ‘Hey Eastern Europe might be a good fit for you, Central Europe…’ We’ve had conversations in the past saying: ‘hey these guys might be a good fit over here in the Americas.’ What do you see? Where would you say, ‘Hey take a look at maybe Rwanda,’ as you’re looking at the region?

Mark Angus: So, I would say to the people that we’re talking to, at least the buyers that are actually looking. There are two…this is in two distinct areas, one is for them, for any African homegrown GBS or BPO operators, that’s one market, one area that would be attracted to Rwanda. So we got a lot of, for example, South African homegrown BPOs. CCI is a good example that may be interested in expanding and want to expand further northwards and so set up in Rwanda.

I think their market internationally sits within the medium to mid-size market, and I think that’s what they should go after. They shouldn’t try to compete with other locations such as South Africa and Egypt, because when large outsourcers larger brands and players, focus on the small, medium, mid-size market and bring in the smaller numbers of seats, smaller FTEs but at the end of the day they’ll add up. And I think that’s where they should be focusing.

Loren Moss: David, what’s your take? What’s your opinion?

David Rumble: I’m very fixed on my view and I’ve shared it with the guys at RDB. You know, we have to be open and honest. Kigali is the only place that’s going to be outsourcing in Rwanda. IT’s not very big, so we’re not talking about a big industry. You know we’re probably…you know, if you take twenty years plus of experience of Egypt and South Africa, we’re trying to condense that 20 years probably into a couple maybe three years and if they’ve got an aspiration to get to you know, 5000 jobs or 10000 jobs, let’s start with the end in mind.

My view is very fixed, you’ve got to go in the short term to second and third generation clients so people who are prepared to consider and take a risk on the country and the location. You’ve got to go to mid-tier BPOs who are only providing international services into sourced markets and are not interested in domestic supply, because those, in the short term, like a CCI, who are not interested in supplying the market domestically, that are in sourced markets, the UK, Australia and America, are not interested at all. Because there’s no domestic market to speak of really in Rwanda. I think we need to be talking about capped scale.

So, we’re not talking about operations here that are going to much above 250, 300 FTE, we’re not going to be talking about operations that are going to be running 24 hours back-to-back with shifting through buildings, because culturally it’s not that type of place. So, I think we need to be very specific about the niche and the organizations they talk to. And it will be providers in the short term. So, I think having Tek Experts there, channel media and obviously now CCI is a good case point. But look, we’ve got some great organizations you know, in the in CALA (Caribbean and Latin America) example in the Caribbean who might be interested in looking at anglophone capabilities at a smaller scale. So, these guys who are in that kind of probably 4,000 to 8,000 FTE total business size in terms of BPOs those are the guys we need to hit.

That’s it. It’s a really simple equation to me. If you want to create 5,000 jobs, you need 10 businesses there that are going to put 500 there. We know Tek Experts are going to go for 500, we know Shell Media are going for 500, and we know CCI are going to go for at least 500, if not a thousand. So, you just need a six, seven more and there are thousands of those organizations. So, it’s just about focus, really simple.

Loren Moss: Andrew, is there an opening for companies with a footprint in Europe to look at Rwanda? Is there an opportunity there?

Andrew Wrobel: Like I said earlier I think, judging by the experience that these companies have had over the years, I think this might be a market to look into definitely, when they want to reduce costs, because like I said earlier, central and eastern Europe is becoming more expensive now so companies are looking to reduce that cost. And it’s going to be small operations, you know this has been said already. So, I wouldn’t try to look at large companies that want to make sure that they have a couple of thousand FTEs in place.

David Rumble: I’d just agree with Andrew. I mean, there are some amazing multilingual operators in Eastern Europe that might need anglophone capability at an economic price point. That’s attractive given the anglophone nature of systems and infrastructure. So, I think the growth that we’ve seen in Eastern Europe and those providers that have done exceptionally well and do an amazing job might want some additional software or support in some of those services. And that’s where I think, for me, Loren, it’s just been capturing and being focused into those businesses.

Andrew Wrobel: Now if I can add one more thing. In fact, you know, before the Russian invasion in Ukraine you had a couple of companies, especially sort of offering sales services, operating out of Ukraine and outsourcing people in, you know employees in Africa. So, at least one company that was doing that. But I don’t know.

Loren Moss: Yeah, I think that that’s been a game changer. I actually have a call later on with a former client that was up until recently based in Ukraine and they have long-term or long-time operations in Africa. They have a footprint in Africa already. And so, I think that you’re right. There is a connection there that can make a lot of sense.

Now, I think that one of the things that we need to address and I’ve saved kind of one of the – at least one of the most important questions for last, and that is if we look at, and you could say in the SWOT analysis it’s the w or you could say it’s a gap analysis but no place is perfect and every place has its advantages and disadvantages. I think that we should maybe be candid and talk about what some of the weaknesses are in areas that…and some of these are going to just be inherent to the situation of the country, and other ones are going to be things that the government might be able to work on.

We talked about how the country is a very low crime country. I think it competes with Estonia and Slovenia for being one of the lowest crime countries in the world. And that’s interesting because you go from a country that was experiencing a genocide and civil violence to one of the safest countries. It’s very impressive.

It’s a clean country. I didn’t see any litter. Stephen, you and I, along with William Carson had a chance to go and kind of go out of the city into the suburbs and the exurbs of the countryside and I didn’t see any graffiti. I saw kiosks on the street built with glass, just like windowpane glass, not armored glass, or Lexan, or anything like that. It was amazing how clean and how safe it was.

On the other hand, I kind of shudder to think what might happen to some kid, like, you guys remember that famous case in Singapore where that kid literally got his butt whipped after he graffitied some cars or something like that. I kind of, you know…it has a low crime situation but then I wonder. It doesn’t seem to be the most—what do I want to say? Civil liberties—oriented place, and that is not necessarily always at the top of the list for every business, but it is in a lot of different cases.

When you look inside contact centers we can deal with sometimes sensitive subjects. You look at what the country has to offer when, you know, Martin said that they had to find a guy and pay him a lot of money to get him to move there and set up operations. A big part of when you go into a place is: if you’re going down there as an expat or if you have to be there to work or visit often, is how appealing that is? You know, I’ve been to South Africa. I’ve been in Johannesburg, but I’m kind of envious…I have Cape Town envy because everybody, all of my colleagues, you guys who have been to Cape Town go on and on about how marvelous Cape Town is, and I’m like ‘gee I missed the party! I never got to go to Cape Town!’ And I actually…one of you guys were talking, and you guys are going Cape Town; I’m sitting here kind of jealous you know, like the kid that came late to lunch!

So, I think that where Rwanda maybe has an area to work is that they have some things like nature preserves and tourism out in different parts of the country but there’s not a lot to offer right there when you’re in Kigali, and that’s going to be important if they really want to build a thriving international services community. Here on this side of the world people like going to the Dominican Republic. We were just there some of us for an opening of the new Glowtouch BPO site and it’s a fun place to be and a relatively safe place to be. It’s a tourism-oriented country.

Rwanda has a nature tourism industry focused on photographic safaris, especially around the country's famed gorillas.
Rwanda has a nature tourism industry focused on photographic safaris, especially around the country’s famed gorillas.

Same thing I’m here in Medellin today. Medellin, Colombia had a bad reputation 40 years ago and now has a thriving tourism business. Costa Rica, everybody loves to go to Costa Rica with their ecotourism, and Stephen, you experienced this. They can work on this maybe I think, as they try to become more welcoming. You remember I pulled out a camera I wanted to take some pictures to show how great Rwanda was, and it was like I pulled out a hand grenade the way that the people reacted. They’re not used to having visitors.

I think that the government can do well to work on the immigration and the customs and the inspections. I can’t say that anybody was mean, but you had that kind of apparatchik, bureaucrat attitude when you come into the (immigration) line to enter the country. they stamp your visa, (the officer’s attitude is) like they’re doing you a favor for letting you in.

I’m here to promote Rwanda and they’re sitting there like ‘I don’t have to let you in’ or something like that. There was that attitude that you see in places that have not yet developed a tourism culture. I’d like to get your inputs on whether there are structural things or whether there are kind of the soft things that like I’ve talked about like the other ingredients that go into things.

Andrew, you know, you’ve got experience in Eastern Europe where you have countries that have a wonderful reputation now, like Croatia’s a wine country and they’ve built a tourism industry and then there are places that are far behind and that still maybe have that old Warsaw Pact attitude when it comes to tourism. So, I’d like your opinion as somebody who has like the whole spectrum first on where maybe – and not just maybe not necessarily the things I’ve talked about but what are the weak areas whether they’re their infrastructure or connectivity or the talent pool where Rwanda still has a long way to go?

Andrew Wrobel: I think I’m one of those lucky ones who have been to Cape Town. In fact it was more than 10 years ago but I really enjoyed the city, but I was also in Eswatini, which at the time was called Swaziland and I remember restaurants there or actually one restaurant there, and you know, it wasn’t really anything amazing and when we went to Kigali and we had a chance to actually visit quite a few restaurants and I was really impressed because you know, that…if I if I hadn’t known that these places were in Kigali I would have never said that they were in Rwanda. They looked like anything that we could see in London or in New York or whatever that would be. So, on that front I would say I was particularly impressed.

When it comes to the border, for example, I don’t recall anything that would be…that I would feel that I might not be let in, it took us—because I think we arrived at the same time with Turkish Airlines—it took us a moment to go through, especially with the (COVID) tests because we had to do two different tests upon arrival, but I think in general it was quite okay, so I don’t think there must be any improvement here. You know, when you have countries that start working as tourist destinations, they need some time to kind of process that, to get used to the tourists, to get used to the inflow of people, and I think within a couple of years that will improve if there’s still anything to improve.

Tasty barbecued goat ribs on the lunch menu at a Kigali eatery. (photo: Loren Moss)
Tasty barbecued goat ribs on the lunch menu at a Kigali eatery. (photo: Loren Moss)

Loren Moss: Stephen?

Stephen Loynd: Yeah, I’ll just quickly add that any place that’s functioning as far as governance goes as efficiently as it seems that Rwanda is like a little Singapore or such I think that you have to expect that other side of it, that you referred to Loren and the answer that I would give to that concern that you’ve kind of broached is you know, Back to my idea that I really appreciate the honesty with which they talk about everything from the young talent takes a little bit of time but it’s there, to: I love the authenticity and honesty how they confront what happened in the 90s and they brought us to the museum.

So, a long way of saying, I think most people that are investing there doing business there will understand some of the more strict approaches that they might take to things because of the history that they come out of and that doesn’t mean—and Elvis (Melia) and I had a lot of conversations around…there are some concerns that you’re referring to around how strict the place might be and authoritarian even, that type of accusation. But I think an awareness of history and being honest and authentic about it will go a long way to addressing those concerns.

Loren Moss: Mark, I’m really looking forward to your input knowing just your cosmopolitan history coming from Zimbabwe having spent time throughout Africa throughout the…really throughout the world. What’s your take on—and I don’t necessarily want the answer to focus on this kind of cultural thing—I just brought that up kind of as an example because we can talk about infrastructure or connectivity or the skill level of the workforce; of all these different things, but that that’s one ingredient that’s there, and then and you’ve got to think about these things because they’re all ingredients. So, Mark, I’d love to hear your take.

Mark Angus: Specifically, not the cultural aspect, that generally perception wise on the country itself?

Loren Moss: Yeah, what are the areas? What’s the gap analysis if we talked about, you know. what’s the “W” in the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis?

Mark Angus: Okay, great. I’m just going to speak generally, I was super impressed with the country. It was beyond my expectations, the cleanliness of Kigali, the amenities, the infrastructure in place, all of that, all of that was there for me. I think what I sensed, and it came from not only some of the delegates that were there but also some of the some of the people on the ground that we interacted with, was—its going to sound funny saying this—but ‘Is this real?’ So, you know, the fact that they are so united, is that sustainable? And also, having gone through what they did, with the genocide and now into this new period where there’s this unity, this oneness in in the country, is that something that they can continue to uphold and sustain, especially when the current president moves on?

Right and that’s just something that stood out for me, that was kind of an underlying theme from the people I was speaking with throughout the whole trip. If they can, fantastic, if they can keep that up. In some cases, there were comments that were being spread around about, I think you actually mentioned it yourself, about it being…so there’s quite a bit of control, centralized control, you know, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I actually don’t know the answer to that. I think in this case we’ve seen the payoffs that they’ve had that, economically in a number of ways the talent that they’ve developed, the way that they focused is all going off.

As to other weaknesses, I think probably the fact that they still are finding their way around and finding their ground in the GBS (Global Business Services) sector and it’s not…they haven’t clearly articulated where they’re going to focus and how they’re going to focus. I think that’s a weakness they need to quickly address that and they need to understand where their niche domains are, what buyer personas they’re going to go after globally, who those people are, what source markets they’re going to go after, and I think they need to articulate that strategy. I think there’s a weakness there. But otherwise, I can’t think of anything else.

Loren Moss: Rolana?

Rolana Rashwan: Yeah, for me I think the major issue is the language. So, it’s okay that the country is not multilingual, but they said it’s one million people who are able to speak English out of the 12 million. So, this is like eight out of each hundred (highly skilled), so I think that could be the weakness that I see because English is like: it’s English, it’s default so if they are unable to expand their language capabilities quickly, that could be a key stopper for the scalability.

And one thing which I won’t say is a weakness but maybe there could be lagging a bit behind, is that I don’t see them active on social media. I mean LinkedIn for the purpose: if we said they need to build the proposition and send the message out, I don’t see that they are sending the message out. I was expecting after our visit to see like on LinkedIn an explosion of videos and images and especially with the picture we had, with the minister, so I thought we’d find everybody tagged in this picture and it was like silence. And when I logged in to connect with the people that we met there some of them had not updated their LinkedIn profile! They were not on their current positions, so this is, I won’t say this is a weakness but maybe they need to focus on this a bit, and because if they want to send the message out, everybody’s on LinkedIn so they need to be more active in this area, so that’s my two cents.

Loren Moss: You know, I think that…

Andrew Wrobel: That’s a very good point, yeah, sorry if I can jump in here. That’s a very good point because I also had a recorded chat with…one of the hosts and you know, we publicized that but we didn’t really see any sort of interaction there, which was a bit of a pity because that could have already amplified the message and it just didn’t happen so I’m totally with Rolana.

Rolana Rashwan: Yeah, it was great that they invited all those people and did all the effort, but they should have leveraged this and built some momentum around it, but unfortunately, they did not.

Loren Moss: You know, I think what I was going to say is I think it goes back to what I mentioned about some of the interactions, whether that’s coming into security or to customs and immigration or let’s say Stephen and I, when we walked around and went to some of the markets and some of the security guards and things like that, it’s not that people are mean but I think that what happens is that when you’re not trained. For example like if you go to a place like Jamaica where they have a country that relies on tourism you have a lot of people that know that they’re just naturally going to go: ‘I’m going to be friendly and I’m going to smile and even if I’m in the government I’m going to do this because we’re depending upon these people coming in here,’ and I think that what happens is people are not necessarily mean like if you go through customs (but it’s more of): I’m used to dealing with domestic people because we don’t have a lot of international traffic and maybe the way that I interact with somebody from my same town they’re not going to take something – they’re not going to be offended by something that maybe all of us who are used to flying around the world in business class are used to. You look at their lives, they’re like glad to see you, you know, whether they mean it or not they’re going to act like it, right?

And so, I think that they are just not so much…that like with social media, with marketing, there are places that have not had to do that and have not had to learn how to do that. I’ve had clients in the past from Latin America who have struggled marketing into the US just because there are nuances that are lost and I’ve made mistakes as an American doing business in Latin America, for example, because of the different nuances there. And we can take things in a way other than how they’re meant, or ‘we’re not used to using LinkedIn in our country because we don’t have the commercial culture yet that we’re still trying to develop,’ and we need to deal – so that’s important. We’re saying these things not to criticize but to really point out areas where they can focus on and improving.

I want to thank all of you guys, especially you stuck with me to the end. I think that it’s a good problem we had some people that had to jump off at the top of the hour, and that’s because everyone has so much to say and so I think that’s a good problem to have. And so, I want to thank you intrepid souls, but I also want to leave with one last question and that is there any takeaway or anything that you wanted to mention that we didn’t cover?

Stephen: I think Loren, I’d say that your point earlier about impact sourcing maybe a little bit more focus on that would go a long way. That was part of the earlier point I was trying to make so maybe impact sourcing is an idea to kind of think about more.

Loren Moss: Right. Anyone else?

Rolana Rashwan: I’d just say it’s beautiful and it’s warm and maybe I didn’t have the experience you had in the airport on the contrary it was warm and welcoming and everything, so that’s in a nutshell.

Loren Moss: Let me clarify, I didn’t have a bad experience, but as I try to find things where I could tell them to improve, I would coach them on how people come in with the first impression of a country. Nothing bad happened to me, I wasn’t afraid, nobody was actually rude to me, but you could tell when people are there there’s an attitude difference in places that are reliant upon tourism in places that are not, and as I say tourism, I include business tourism, in that I include people who have to travel to places as expats or as visitors for meetings or events or those kinds of things as well. So, I would just coach them. I don’t want to say that anything bad happened to me because nothing bad happened to me, but I would just say that I would point that out as an area where they might want to pay attention to.

I’m sorry I think Andy I stepped on something you were going to say.

Andrew Wrobel: I don’t know, on the positive note I think the unity is something that you know, was really impressive. Maybe not on the negative note but something that I was quite surprised by was when I arrived at the airport when leaving the country and I went through this huge scan with the car and we had to get out of the vehicle before getting into the airport you know, and just wait this was something…

Rolana Rashwan: Never seen it anywhere in the world!

Andrew Wrobel: I had never seen it before and you know, I have to say that I’ve been here and there so that was that was a new experience for me.

Loren Moss: Yes. Mark.

Mark Angus: No, I think nothing more can be said than what I think everybody’s said. But I think what impressed me was arriving and how seamlessly the process was from you know, passport immigration through to the COVID tests that also was surprisingly they did…they were on the spot for the test on at the airport and I think the other thing that surprises me was certainly just the amount of investment that’s already there, the amount of infrastructure investments that they’ve already gone at, how they’ve already won that.

I think that the only thing that probably is that I’d like to also mention is how humble they were. So, when we were in the meetings, especially that last meeting, we were all there and we met with the minister and the CEO, very surprised at how humble they were you know? Firstly, both ladies, fantastic, immaculately dressed, very smart and very presentable, very friendly, very warm, I mean the fact that she came around the table and shook our hands and they were furiously taking notes. You know, I just…I was sitting down, I was just thinking: I just wish a couple of other government people could come and learn a thing or two from them, you know, they’re just very humble and just willing to take account of things. I think that’s what’s going to stand out for me.

Rolana Rashwan: Yes, I agree.

Loren Moss: Yes you know, I want to close with – I got to stay a few days afterwards a couple of those days were by choice, and a couple of those days were no fault of Rwanda but just you know, the weather and different things, but I took advantage of that time to go out and to meet with people, foreign people that were doing business in Rwanda, some Rwandan business people as well, and I said ‘OK look, the government, they showed us how great everything is, which is what their job is, and they try to tell us how wonderful and idyllic everything is…I said: ‘What was it really like?’ and the thing is that nobody disagreed with anything that was presented to us. The people, and I said: ‘Hey what’s really—I’m not going to you know, tell your names or anything like that—but tell me really!’ and they were really glad to be doing business in Rwanda.

They were really…they were there in a long-term basis, they have long-term investments there, both inside and outside of the professional services business, and they were all glad that they had invested in Rwanda, and they were all glad that they were doing business in Rwanda. And so, I think that all of us left being big fans of Rwanda and wanting the country to do well in this journey and as it develops a professional services sector and development in general.

And so, I want to thank you all for your time. And let’s continue to, as we all will, to stay in touch and to continue to collaborate. Thank you all for your time.

Facebook Comments