Lessons from Rwanda on how to lead beyond your boundaries

Written by Monica Gathoni, a Lapid Leader.

“Lead Africa”; one of the pillars of Lapid Leaders Africa that I didn’t understand at all during the 3 month leadership and entrepreneurship program. It seemed rather ambitious to me, how in the world would we lead Africa, a continent being led by the old. How would my voice be heard? Where do I even start? Why should I lead Africa in the first place? It honestly made no sense to me but I came to realize that I was thinking small-scale; I was only thinking about myself. Well, it is bigger than me.

SAM_1747When a window of opportunity to be part of the Africa Experience to Rwanda, opened up, I took it up without hesitation. It’s not that I had planned for it from the start but I’ve always kept an open mind and I wanted an escape plan from reality. But most importantly, I always have a knack of learning and oh boy did I learn.

From the time we entered the bus. I’ve always been a fan of visiting new places, it’s the journey to the destination that I’ve never been a fan of. It is required after all, even when it comes to getting the good things in life. You have to do things you are not comfortable with.

Despite being uncomfortable with the 26 hour journey, I decided to make the best out of it by doing what I love doing. I used the opportunity to make memories. To really know and study my colleagues/friends considering we were going to live in a foreign country together for a week, plus it’s fun. I also took most of the time being in tune with my thoughts and I escaped reality a couple of times and went deep into my imagination. That is me being me. I loved soaking in the beauty of the sites and landscapes, it was really refreshing and I appreciated every single bit of God’s creation.

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Anyway, the objective of visiting Kigali, Rwanda was to associate with leaders of different sectors of the economy and learn the leadership dynamics and also to understand how their economic growth has increased exponentially over a very short time. Let me though take the time to appreciate Rwanda. From its clean environment, to the warm, loving and caring people, to its high level of organization and its peace and quietness. I’ve always imagined an ideal environment to live in in my mind and let me tell you for a fact that Rwanda is almost there. For the first time I felt like I was home, that I was meant to be there. It got quite personal for me.

Besides the things above, the following are the things that I think make Rwanda stand out:

  1. VALUES AND PRINCIPLES

The Rwandese I was fortunate to meet with during my stay in Kigali were very value driven, from their senior leadership all the way down to the subordinates. It was admirable to see people living practically what sounded theoretical to me a few months ago. When we visited the Ministry of Youth and ICT, the Permanent Secretary told us of an acronym, A.R.I.S.E., which summarizes the country’s values (how cool is that).

I love their level of inclusivity, they know that summarizing such things into acronyms makes it easier and fun for the youth to relate with and to make it stick. Conversations from every leader we talked to revolved around these values: Accountability, Responsibility, Integrity, Sense of Agency and Excellence. They were all speaking in one language and I loved that about them. This got me thinking about my country Kenya, what values represent Kenya? Are we able to speak in one language?

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  1. HAVING A COMMON GOAL/VISION.

Economic empowerment of the people and Rwanda has been holistic. One of the business leaders we met is the CEO of RWA Business Group, Ephraim, who at just 22 is moving mountains in Rwanda.

He supplies sugar, he calls that part of the business MAISHA (life) and he invests in start-ups through RWA Capital. His vision is to produce over 1 million jobs and to educate 10 million people, all that aims at achieving the economic empowerment of families. Such an audacious goal for a young fellow but he is pretty much determined to do it. Why can’t I also achieve a similar fete?

We also met officials of the Rwanda Development Board which is involved in the economic development of Rwanda through the private sector. Imagine it only takes a maximum of 6 hours to receive a Registration Certificate for starting a company. They want many job opportunities to arise from the private sector so that their GDP can increase resulting to an economic growth.

One thing they value very much is economic independence. They have committed to apply excellence in all they do as they intend to be known as a hub of excellence in Africa. Their goal in all this is to reduce on foreign aid as they believe that this leads to manipulation by the external parties as we can observe in many African countries including Kenya. I admired their commitment to excellence and decided to strive for this kind of excellence in my life as well. 

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I came to understood that you don’t have to lead Africa through a political or managerial position but from where you are; every role you play is a stepping stone to Africa’s leadership. No role is unimportant, no role is too small, you just have to think beyond yourself, beyond your family, beyond your country but think and act globally. God did not place us in this world to live just ordinary lives but extremely awesome lives. True story, after this experience I came back to Kenya having that feeling that I can conquer the world. “Enyewe kutembea kwingi ni kuona mengi.”

 

 

 

 

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