Business and History in Rwanda
End of my first week. Every day I am absorbing so much from Rwanda, either on how to do business or on history and culture. I feel being in a complete different world with so much to learn and share.
I got the opportunity to get an overview of how the logistics system is set up in Rwanda to support the distribution of medicine to district pharmacies. Vaccines are independent from the rest of the drugs due to cold chain constraints, and I will only focus on non vaccine products.
A note about Rwanda: it is only 26,338 km2 (10,169 sq mi), smaller than Belgium, with a population just over 11 million inhabitants some leaving in remote areas, and almost 50% of the population is under 15 years of age.
The logistics system faces some challenges, starting from the number of districts in the country, about 30, each managing a pharmacy. Rwanda counts more than 400 health centers serviced by these pharmacies. English is now the official language. However, part of the population speaks only Kinyarwanda, or Kinyarwanda mixed with some French or English. This is even visible on ads in mixed languages (see picture). Doing business here does not seem to be second nature. It seems to be the most challenging aspect regardless of the business area. A lot of program and workshops are organized to develop this skill and quite some progress has already been made, definitely in the healthcare sector. Our goal for the week was to develop a plan on what and how to improve the Supply Chain based on needs and expectations as explained by the team.
In the meantime, I got my first true experience relative to the apartment hunting process. It is normal to get a broker or intermediate person. However, relating to earlier comment on business skills, you never meet at the apartment you would like to visit. Common practice is to get this person somewhere, and ride to the point of visit. Then you drop off this person again meaning that you drive back and forth for hours with strangers in your car, sometimes more than one at a time as being on time is neither a common practice. You end up visiting accommodations with 2 or 3 different brokers along the way ….And of course, they all want your business!!! So strong negotiation is one of the bottom line. It all worked out fine at the end of the day, even though I got very frustrated at times. Good example of learning along the way…
To learn more about the history, I went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a museum and graveyard. After the 1994 genocide, more than 250,000 people have been buried there. The museum relates the “before, during, and after” the genocide. Regardless of the political opinions or affiliation we may have, it is a place where strong emotions emanate. Over the years and with so many genocides worldwide, it is quite surprising how similar patterns of violence and political ideology may occur. Reflection on human nature is definitely part of the visit.
On a more joyful note, I had the opportunity to meet with very nice people at the guesthouse, working in completely different fields than me such as communication, peace & conflict, psychology…A small group of us decided to go to the Ivuka Art Center. The center provides support to Rwandan artists who are able to sell their art and at the same time benefit the development of the artistic community of Rwanda. Very nice artworks.
I finished my day yesterday with my dear colleague and friend Beth. She is from Kenya and invited me to the Heroes day celebration organized by the Community of Kenyans in Rwanda. I had the opportunity to learn more about Kenyans in Rwanda, meet a lot of people, share an excellent Kenyan diner, and ended up dancing on Sawhili, Rwandan and Ougandan music. Great cultural dive.