More than 700 high level participants, including 260 foreign investors, attended a Rwandan investment conference on May 24th, 2006, representing more than 132 countries around the world. This was no accident. It was the result, 12 years after one of the worse genocides in world history (1994), of the visionary and integrity rich leadership of mostly one man; Rwandan President Paul Kegame. My friend. An honest African President, in a time and age when honesty is in short supply around the world.
But there is another reason why these investors and leaders came to Rwanda, and it is one not so obvious. The people of Rwanda. You see, since 1959 there have been waves of Rwandan citizens and families forced out of the country, where they were forced to raise families abroad; from neighboring Uganda to as far away as Germany in Europe and Portland, Oregon in America. And with the emergence of a leader like President Kegame, they all are coming home again, and bringing their international business acumen, and relationships with them. As I always say, "you don’t do business with companies or governments, you do business with people."
8 out of 10 Rwandans I met during my time there, those working in the middle class, were from someplace else, returning home. It is truly a remarkable story, and shows the power and influence of true, honest, dignity centered leadership. It is proves that, given an informed choice, people really do want to "come home." I also believe that this unique dynamic in Rwanda will give it an advantage on the rest of the African continent, just as America enjoys an advantage over many other developed countries; the advantage of home court diversity. A global connection throughout the world, through its people. This advantage will allow them to leverage existing global relationships, and to trade with the world.
Yes, the tragedy no doubt bruised Rwanda, but again as I like to say, "you cannot have a rainbow without a storm first."
Onward, with HOPE
John Hope Bryant