Rwanda

Ljungbyhed Airport
A few minutes ago, I uploaded the fulltext version of the master thesis report that wraps up Wille’s and my work during the last six months. Feels good to finally get to share it to you!

Access the project-webpage dareafrica.com and read our report ”Seizing the ICT Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa – Implications from Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana”. Please share the report to your network if you appreciate it, direct links are supplied for Facebook or Twitter.

Thesis report publicized!

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Interest in Amsterdam - photo and retouch Erik Winther 2013
We have received lots of interest for our work from all types of actors since the academic presentation. It feels good, as we’ve been frustrated so many times – both by the many business opportunities that are just waiting for westerners, and because of the unnecessary inefficiencies in development aid. I’ll tell you about the spin-offs when we get closer to practical details.

Beside the leverage on our message, I think the best kudos came from Swedfund themselves, as they have requested us to continue on the same track on part-time as consultants. Feels like an indirect “well done”.

Interest

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Reaching for more, shot at UN memorial in Busan, South Korea - Erik Winther 2011
With the formal presentation approved, few things remain before I get my MSc-diploma. We are giving the report a final touch, and we will do the peer-review on Raoul and Fredrik’s thesis when they are ready. But far more interesting is that we get to present the project several times more, in varying forums and for several types of actors.

This completes the circle we were aiming for when the two of us stared to discuss this project two years ago; to do a fun and interesting project in Africa that would contribute and add actual insights and value to at least some part of the society. Hence, I am proud to say that we’ve got to do just that, and that our findings from the seven weeks long research trip across Sub-Saharan Africa will be spread and publicised in multiple forums.

Wrap-up

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Framläggning, photo by Anna 2013
Last Friday, the 25th of January, Wille and I presented our project and conclusions for the audience in C2 on Linköping University’s campus Valla. Our colleagues Raoul and Fredrik were back from Geneva and presented their peer-review before the open discussion started. We got many good questions and were happy to find that the audience was really interested and participated actively, thanks!

When our examiner Anna and supervisor Ya had given us their approval, and compliments I must say, we walked with friends and family to Fredagspuben for sparkling wine before we headed to Stångs Magasin for a really nice dinner. Several hours later, I rounded off the evening over some drinks with my beloved family – love you all.

Thesis defence presentation

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What Africa wants, in short, is business and trade with foreign companies to help their economies grow and skills develop.

This is what Wille and I conclude from speaking with a range of persons all hierarchical levels in the three countries we’ve visited. They do not ask for ‘aid’ (Of course excluding emergencies and catastrophes, but that goes for any country including Sweden.); no matter how good the intentions are. Worth a thought, I think.

Real help

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Travelled distance
33 000 kilometers.

Privacy
The two of us have spent around 99,7% of the last six weeks in the same place or room as the other (excluding showers and restroom-visits).

Interview-notes
Approximately 140 typed pages of bullet point-summaries. That no one but the two of us will ever see because of secrecy.

Taxi
Roughly 200 trips, out of which we had to write our own receipts in all but three cases in Ghana; apparently nothing they are used to…

Ghanaian ice-cream
The cheapest we had cost 0,5USD, and the most expensive portion-packed (think Nogger) we found was 10USD. No, we did not buy the latter.

Our relation
Was mistaken as a gay couple roughly as often as we were thought of as twins; despite being (only) friends & colleagues.

Conflicts between us
None. Thank you Wille for an unforgettable tour! :)

The trip: Hard facts

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Wow, how time flies! Our 48 days in Africa feels more like 4,8 or something. I will miss the bustling street life, the amazing countryside, the friendly people & all new friends, and -of course- the warm climate.

With tons of experiences and more than thirty 1-2 hour long formal interviews in the baggage are there loads of hard facts, tips & trix, dos & don’ts, and concrete business opportunities to process and explain in our upcoming report.

Apart from some samples shared here, the complete set of findings and the full-text report will be published on a separate page. The address isn’t yet decided and I am still working on the design, so it remains a secret. Until we reveal it: Happy Lucia Day and sleep well; I’m off for one last good night in the air condition’s cooling 26°C breeze. Sleep well!

Last night in Africa

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As it turned out, I hadn’t attached any payment proof regarding the application-fee with my application. Hence, the räksmörgås is still just a sandwich. One can say it was my fault, but despite the help-buttons and their texts is the interface’s user-friendliness low. Low enough to accept my application in the validation; without both payment and proof of it.

Guess RDB has a thing or two to learn from Sweden, the country with the world’s second fastest internet, but far more user-friendly homepages that speed-winning South Korea.

Räksmörgås Trading: the verdict

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This is the Telecom House in Rwanda, situated on one of the boulevards, and within a stone’s throw from the Swedish and European Union’s embassies (same building). We held several of our interviews on the top floor balcony (right side), which is the office of the soon-officially-opened incubator kLab. In the basement is the government’s datacentre, which was partially built by a Swedish company. *Proud that they get some help from back home*

When we interviewed the founder of Rwanda’s first academic Master’s program; MSc in Information Technology, he told us that it was started, and is still running, on aid from Sweden; via SIDA. Hence, with aid and academics in place; the only things needed are ICT companies. Interested? Call Wille or me to hear about the golden opportunities.

Telecom House

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At last we got to Ghana, one day after schedule. One day after that, also our luggage got here. Beside these issues, Ghana and Accra got a tough start; extremely expensive accommodation (damn you diamond, gold and oil…) and the past awesome weeks in Kenya and Rwanda. The West Coast will have to struggle to level up to the standards.

But the weather forecasts promise sunny blue skies with 30-32°C at daytime and 26-29°C at night, thus the sometimes chilly nights of Kigali are no longer an issue. In fact, Sweden is experiencing snowfall and storms these days, which helps Accra’s temperature make up for a lot of the initial complications.

Photo from the beach just outside our hotel, showing the strong (=fun) waves and a glimpse of the presidential palace.

Struggling start for Ghana

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We see a lot of potential, and it is more than clear that today’s Africa is what China was 30 years ago: the place to be for fast economic growth and help-to-self-help. Which, in the end of the day, is what really matters – to me.

A few examples of what we have seen ourselves in Kenya:
• IBM recently opened their office in Nairobi, their first R&D department in the developing world, 9th in total
• MIT-students start their companies in Kenya’s Nairobi because of the buzzing creativity and potential on Ngong Road.
• Google’s grand office opening-party in Nairobi took place when we were there.
• We’ve met traditional Maasai men that lived far, far out in the bushes without electricity; yet greeted us “Hey, give me your mobile and I’ll send you some nice tribe-songs via Bluetooth”, and did it.

..and in Rwanda:
• Rwanda’s backbone of optical fibre for broadband is better than many others’, e.g. France’s.
• Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is just as clean as Singapore, and their roads are equal in standard.
• Carnegie Mellon University has a campus in Rwanda, their first in the developing world. “Things are too slow in US and Europe”, their director told us.

Our findings, so-far: Africa is on the move

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Beside the academic aspects, the outcome our project creates is at best a decent report with reasonable findings, which we ourselves own the immaterial rights to. So really, why is someone else paying for all expenses during our weeks in Africa?

Just as most other westerners, Swedes are -sorry to say- still considering Africa as a homogenous piece of land, from which the everyday headlines contains the words war/death/poverty/HIV/unemployment/rebels/pirates, but rarely opportunities/economic growth/skills/stability. Hence, most companies are of the same opinion.

But this is not the case. It is actually far from the truth; a result of the negative signals that meet media’s short-term incentives easiest. So the objective of our project is to get an idea of the business climate and opportunities (if any), findings that are to be shared amongst Swedes and Swedish companies in order to raise awareness. Hence, we’re hired as messengers.

Infographics by Kai Krause, which needs to be shown frequently.

Our project

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So we didn’t actually reach Ghana today. The flight got cancelled and we were eventually driven to a hotel, paid by Kenyan Airways. So despite that I only got half an hour sleep last night, the extra day in Nairobi was a quite nice break; meeting up with Malin and Frida again, and swimming in the five-star hotel’s rooftop-pool. A significant standard increase compared to what we pay for with Swedfund’s money.

Oh, if you doubted; the picture shows my room, Wille stays in his own next-door.

Country 1: revisited

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Wille, multitasking at the hotel’s restaurant after eight intense but fun and successful days in Rwanda. Having conducted twelve additional formal interviews, country number two is considered visited. Cheers!

2/3 countries: done

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Rwanda claims to have the easiest and fastest procedure for starting a business; an online one-stop-shop solution that requires no paperwork at all, and can be completed on a mobile phone in order to serve also computerless entrepreneurs. And it takes justsix hours.

Hence, I sent my application instead of reading fiction before I shut my eyes. To make the test more interesting (ok, it was primarily a childish outburst), I named the company to ‘Räksmörgås Trading’ since räksmörgås is one of the few words that contain all three Swedish special letters.

I really hope they complete and confirm in time, because we have an appointment with the COO of the issuing authority tomorrow at 11am and I would not want to complain…

Räksmörgås Trading

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After an exciting day exploring north and east Rwanda’s splendour, we paused at Gisenyi beach and took a lovely swim in lake Kivu, with the Congolese villas watching our back (picture).

This was the first time I was flexible enough to swim butterfly since my clavicle-injury two months ago; sooo good to be able to stretch out and feel free again :)

My international driving license and an improvised lecture in useful usage of handbrakes made Nepo step aside from the steering wheel, so now I can check another box on my to-do list: African serpentine roads in the dark, with occasional monsoon rain and oncoming traffic with non-stop high beam. Check.

Water, for better and worse

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Yes, we went there. Booyah. No, it wasn’t a big deal. To give you some perspective on the frightening articles in media: The border at Goma between DRC and Rwanda was closed by UN for 12 hours, before they understood what happened, when M23 came to secure Goma’s citizen from the brutal Congolese National Army. Then it reopened, and now are things fine; with M23 still securing the city. At least that is the story we got told by Gisenyi-residents.

Indeed, you can bring an automatic rifle across the border to Congo for a 100RWF-bribe (€0.1), but it is really hard to get it back to Rwanda. Just take a look at the US-propaganda video ‘Kony 2012’ and the anarchy should be clarified; they want, they create a reason to place troops there, and they will take.

But life in the border cities Gisenyi and Goma are not at all as bad as media implies. In fact, both Wille and I kind of fell in love with the place; a lost pearl in the middle of Africa with great potential and smiling people.

My eyes on Goma

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What a day! We took off early in the morning and drove north to the Volcanoes National Park (the famous Silverback Gorillas’ habitat), never stopped since searching for them costs >800USD/person & day, but continued west until we reached Gisenyi on the shore of lake Kivu.

While enjoying the beautiful and never-ending hills, several of the differences we’ve observed compared to Kenya got confirmed; more structure and organised processes, lower crime and corruption levels, but also lower economic maturity and lower national confidence. Which in total seems reasonable and good for a landlocked country that is still just a teenager.

Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country, which is why their fields and plantations cover the landscape; no matter the altitude or steepness, as exemplified in the picture by tea-plantations.

Pays des Mille Collines

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Last weekend, when we stayed at Simon’s place, he told us that a 12 year old Maasai boy killed a lion on his own to protect his herd of cows. Same issue as with wolves and sheep in Sweden, but it isn’t children who have to take action there – especially not as in this case with a herd-stick as only weapon…

It’s hard to imagine that Simon’s youngest would take down a wild lion alone within nine years.

Lion-boy

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Considering Comgolese Goma, real estate recently became a buyer’s market.

Goma was united with Rwandan Gisenyi until the colonisation, but in distinction from Berlin, the wall still stands and the city is still divided. And since we are “in the neighbourhood” (I’m mentally wearing those famous Seven-league boots), there is an urge to check it out; at least from the Rwandan side of the fence.

Regardless of our findings, what I really hope is that UN steps up and makes not just bad decisions now that they get a chance to rebuild a somewhat positive reputation of themselves in Rwanda.

DRC’s Goma

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The last five days have been spent here in Kigali, Rwanda, full of exciting meetings for our research. My good Rwandan friend Charmant that I met in Korea is unfortunately not here (still studying at Kyung Hee University), but connected us to his brother Nepo and friend Emmy (see picture). They have shown Wille and me around in Kigali today, Saturday, and will join us tomorrow when we are heading northeast for the scenic nature and lake Kivu.

In Rwanda!

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Our empirical studies in Kenya witness on extensive efficiency issues in facilities and infrastructure that produce and provide power, water etc. Sweden is in the frontline regarding “smart grids”; knowledge that will make the bold one very rich here.

So don’t be that darn Swedish – get down here and make both yourself and Africa a favour by helping the last Zebra sync his tail-swing!

75% synchronized

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Having spent almost two out of our three weeks here in Nairobi already, it is evident that time flies. The fascinating people we meet are all making me want to stay longer and get involved in all the visionary projects they run and physically implement.

I guess we will experience similarities in Kigali and Accra, but this is a place to which I probably will return. But time will tell whether that’ll be as a volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, employer or just an ordinary tourist.

Picture of two Grant’s-gazelles chasing each other on the savannah.

Time flies

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Today we’ve been booking meetings and arranged things all day.
We scheduled the meeting with Paul Kukubo, the CEO of Kenya’s ICT Board, and his colleague Lawrence Nduva. That is one of the most exciting meetings possible for our project, so it feels great to have it in the calendar :)

Arranged a couple of other meetings with local entrepreneurs and used our connections to get in touch with Rwanda’s Development Board during our stay there. Also set up the meetings for tomorrow; with the former ICT-strategist of PwC Africa and a key person at Ericsson.

A meeting with the sharp and friendly entrepreneur; and Sandbox-ambassador, Mark rounded off the day. Nice!

Picture from Januari, showing Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Progress

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Week 41 (now)
Linköping – Thesis work, Korean evening and rehab

Week 42
Lund – Thesis work, hello to mom & dad and representation at LTH

Week 43
Stockholm – “Innovation in Action” symposium for the thesis
Linköping, thesis wrap-up, exam and removal of sutures

Week 44-46
Nairobi – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and safari

Week 47-48
Kigali – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and look-around

Week 49-50
Accra – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and water sports
Amsterdam – Hello Lisa!

Week 51
Linköping – Thesis writing

Week 52-1
Lund– Christmas
Amsterdam – New Years Eve

Exciting schedule!

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I didn’t know that much about Sub-Saharan Africa until I took the class ‘Development and Governance in Africa’ in Korea. Without imposing that I’ve got hold of it now, at least my awareness and interest is significantly higher.

So to give you a clue of the orientation, Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana are marked from right to left in the picture; since we will travel from east to west.

Geographical orientation

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An early question that had to be addressed was where we were going to call ‘home’ this semester. The decision wasn’t obvious, considering we have our university and supervisor in Linköping, Swedfund’s central office in Stockholm, our opponents in Geneva and most interview subjects spread out all over Africa.

The solution we chose was to stay in Linköping during the pre-study and the finalization of the report, in-between which we conduct six weeks of field studies in the three most interesting regions; Nairobi in Kenya, Kigali in Rwanda and Accra in Ghana.

The tickets just got booked, and since we are flying with KLM is the transit in Amsterdam enabling me to stop by and say hello to my good-old friend Lisa. Nice!

Picture of the volcano Sundoro-Sumbing, shot from the 9th-century monument of Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Location

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KHU main gate at full moon
So, the time has come. After waiving off all the exchange students, one at the time, am I now waiving bye to Korea myself.

This has been a truly amazing year and I am filled with gratefulness to all of you who have shared those experiences with me. The biggest and most important gift of being here is obviously the wealth of perspectives, and the friendships themselves, by spending time with amazing people from allover the world.

A deep, humble and happy thank you to my new friends from
Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ghana, Guatemala, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Sweden, Tunisia, UK, USA, Vietnam…and of course everyone from Korea.

You will always have a place in my heart.

Goodbye

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