Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chigari (Kigali)

Wednesday was a more relaxing day for Irene and myself. I spent the morning at the GSL (Greatest School of Languages) where they teach English, reading through the beginning and intermediate books to correct grammar and have my voice recorded. All future English students of the school should come away with a lovely Canadian accent!

In the afternoon Irene and I met with some members here in Kigali who want to re-energise the committee that is currently here and were looking for some guidance. We sat outside at a little concrete table and benches overlooking a vegetable garden, overlooking the slums of Rwanda which skirt the embassies and hotels. The slums are scattered along the slopes and in the afternoon sunlight were quite picturesque - then the rains began. We attempted to stay in our little shelter but the rains came down so hard we were splashed from its landing and it blew in from both sides of the shelter as well as from minuscule holes in the roofing. We then fled to our room to finish the meeting.

In the evening, Irene and I attended the Pioneers of Prosperity Africa Awards. The awards ceremony was to honour 10 entrepreneurs from across Africa (selected from over 1400 nominations) who demonstrate excellence in entrepreneurship and are contributing to a better society in some way. The evening was an incredible opportunity to meet some of those most dedicated to improving Africa's development and private sector from a range of angles. There were also present people from across Africa who support or are otherwise engaged in similar fields - an absolute gold mine of people changing the world!

All the entrepreneurs were incredible, there were finalists from South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. The finalist who won the grand prize was a man from Nigeria who runs a paper company, he provides jobs and care for almost 600 people and used his $100,000 of prize money to build houses for his workers - he deserved to win!

I also met a man who works for a health/insurance company in Kenya, called AAR. He absolutely oozed energy - I think I've never spoken with someone who so clearly had multiple thought processes running in intersecting areas throughout his mind, and would pull from one or another as they became relevant to the conversation. His company charges insurance - but with the theory that healthy patients saves money for the insurance company in the long run. By tying the insurance company to the healthcare sector, they work a great deal with preventative care, thereby caring for their customers in a much more meaningful and impactful way!

Andreas Widmer of 7 fund and Eric Kacou of OTF were there as co-hosts of the event with Legatum. I realised in the days leading up to the event that here in Rwanda they are both celebrities. As I mentioned to our WYA members that Irene and I would attend, they were so jealous and wished so much to meet them - they all remembered seeing Andreas on tv years ago, and Eric currently. Seeing them at the event was great by itself, and extra fun knowing that I was speaking with such celebrities :)

We had taken motorcycle taxis to the event, and on the way home it seemed we would have to walk. It was do-able, but at 11pm not the best use of 40 min of our time, especially as we had to leave the next morning at 6am for Butare. Thankfully, 5 minutes into the walk a woman who had been at the event was driving by and gave us a lift home. I think I've already mentioned how friendly people are here?

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