Life in Kigali
- At work:
Almost four months into the assignment and some time for reflection. I am surprised to see already significant accomplishments at work. Based on the initial pace, I would not have imagined completing almost all the deliverables in such a short period of time. Indeed resilience and flexible thinking is part of building the right environment to deliver successfully. I have to admit that I also pushed my colleagues and the management on some aspects to move forward faster, which I realize represented a challenge for the teams. I am glad we found the right compromise, and like a colleague told me this morning: “it is good to have someone driving what we would like to build and deliver”. For me the lesson is about “Hakuna Matata”. If the will and focus is there, do not worry…things will fall into place.
My analysis on the Public Health Supply Chain has been finalized, and summarized in a report distributed to the managers and executives of the institution. Basically, three focuses to develop: efficiency & compliance, cost effectiveness, and performance management. The analysis, including recommendations, has been well received.
Out of this analysis, one priority for the division (which represents the central level of the Supply Chain) was the development of a cost model based on 2012 financial data analysis. Operating cost, profitability, cash flow and working capital are the main indicators calculated and used to develop an income strategy. Today, the model and analysis are completed. Key data and income strategy is summarized for a presentation to the Minister of Health. The spreadsheets built for the purpose are with the Finance department. The model will be used on a monthly basis to populate a dashboard for the use of the management. February and March will be the trial months for the Finance department, as they will export and analyze the data! We will adjust as needed.
The second priority was the update of the Sales and Marketing standard operating procedures including the ones for the distribution of drugs. This work is well under way.
The National Public Library has opened a couple of months ago. It is about 3 min walk from work. I like to spend some time there during my lunch break. It is a gorgeous building with a very decent display of books, a lot of them in French which I really appreciate (not so easy to find in Lititz PA). Visiting the only bookstore in Kigali, I found a pastel kit. I have not drawn with pastels in 20 years! With my busy life, I forgot what deeply made me peaceful and how I can enjoy my alone time. I have (re)discovered B. Cendrars, M. Yourcenar, J. Prevert, A. Malraux, O. Wilde…and drawing. For the moment, I’m working on a giraffe for my youngest daughter, her favourite animal.
- Rwandan (common) story:
I would like to share with you the story of Charles. Charles is a man I met in the street while I was going downtown for a walk. He was coming out of the Kigali hospital and called me as I was passing by. Charles is HIV sero-positive. He had just received the anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment. The ARV treatment is distributed free of charge for patients through the active distribution supply chain I am working on right now. Rwanda has made excellent progress in the last ten years reducing HIV incidence from 10% to 2.9% (adult 15 and older). Charles comes four times a week to the hospital to get the treatment, which makes his life and work difficult to manage, even more with the disease symptoms and side effects. Charles is a Tutsi, and in 1994 both his parents and two out of his three sisters were killed. Luckily he was in Burundi at that time. He lives with his 6 year old little girl who is healthy. His wife passed away two years ago from AIDS. He actually speaks very good French. He studied a few years in Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium. Today he is fully focused on his daughter to make sure she will get an education and later on, a job. But it is a real challenge due to his very low income. In our conversation he told me about a concentrated fruit juice recommended by the doctor to get some vitamins to boost the immune system. He never got it as he cannot afford it. I then decided to take him to the supermarket to buy the juice. We came out with 1L of juice and some bread. I gave him a few Rwf to pay the bus so he could visit his sister and share the bread with her and his daughter. He did not know how to thank me so we agree he could pray for me. He left with shiny eyes and a big smile… and I am very glad I met him.
Christmas in Tanzania
Kigali was very quiet over the Christmas Holidays. Almost all expats were gone and the local life was much slower than usual. My Division closed for a few days. I decided to go to Tanzania for a few days safari through Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Nat’l Parks. I decided to camp without knowing that campsites are not fenced and fully opened to Nature. At night, the campsite was visited by hyenas, baboons, lions, buffalos, elephants… I was so scared to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night! The whole experience was absolutely magic. The beauty of the landscape mixed with the abundance of the animals: the perfect Christmas gift.
Week end in Nairobi
Last week end, I was invited to Nairobi by my friend Jef. He has been working there for about a year now and is very knowledgeable about Kenya. Nairobi looks so chaotic compared to Kigali: cars and people everywhere, business in all corners, noise and music all around, political debates in the middle of the sidewalk…Quite a change from here where everything is organized, controlled and quiet. Over these two days, I had the opportunity to experiment the two extremes of Kenya social classes: the visit of Baba Dogo slum and the Tamambo Karen Blixen coffee House.
Ken was our guide for the visit of Baba Dogo. Ken is an 18 year old teenager, calm and well educated. He lives in the slum with his family; Jef sponsors his education. He started college in Sept last year at the University of Nairobi. He studies journalism. From the city center we took a matatu (local bus) to Baba Dogo, about 30mn ride. We had the opportunity to meet his father George, two of his brothers Benjamin and Joseph, and his sister Violette. They are a great family, with so much courage and hope. They live in one room made of mud and metal sheets. As you can imagine, safety is a concern. We were ok with Ken even though we witnessed a knife fight between two teenagers…and we did not go into specific areas where drug dealers make their business.
The free public source of water is controlled by gangs so it costs 2KSh to buy approx 20L of water. If the landlord does not pay electricity, you stay in the dark. Public latrines cost 5 KSh. And to add to their “wellbeing”, they pay a 10USD monthly rent! Their only income is about 40USD/month. It is a hard life even though they hope the future will be better if the kids can get access to education. The slum is not safe for women, the reason why Ken’s mom moved out to the countryside. However, 13 year old Violette decided to stay. She takes care of the “house” by cooking, cleaning, washing. She also goes to school and is a pretty good student. This is her reason to stay in Baba Dogo; the slum gives her access to school and she hopes to go to a university one day. Ken’s family is humble, hard working, turned towards the future, like a lot of these families. But I felt so much indignation witnessing this environment, even more when I see the bureaucracies of the International partners and corruption of governments.
This is part of the real world we live in…but fortunately we can choose to make a difference.
Karen Blixen’s house and coffee garden is beautiful. It is a colonial style building in a beautiful compound. There, only expats and local upper class. Such a contrast with Baba Dogo!
It was for me the best life experience I could receive. I feel so lucky to have been born in a privileged environment.