George Washington University & University of South Carolina bringing business professors to Rwanda

This January, we had the pleasure to co-host an International Business Faculty Development Program in Rwanda with the CIBERs of George Washington University and the University of South Carolina. CIBERS (Centers for International Business Education and Research) seek to improve research and business knowledge capacity amongst professors and students. In this case, 21 international business professors from 12 American universities learned about Rwanda’s frequently praised success story and met with a range of business, political and academic leaders.
 
Two of our Rwandan colleagues, Francoise and Solange, joined the delegation as coordinators. We’ve asked them to share some of their experiences with us. Read on to learn more!

 
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Please tell us more about the companies that the delegation visited during the program:
In order to showcase the Rwandan success story, we had assembled a very diverse list of leading companies and institutions, located both in the capital Kigali and in the countryside. Among others, they included the following:

  • MTN Rwanda: The Rwandan operation of South Africa’s multinational mobile telecommunications company, operating in many African, European and Asian countries.
  • Gahaya Links: An inspiring social enterprise that empowers women economically through fair trade and the export of fine handicrafts.
  • Sorwathe: Rwanda’s first tea producing factory located in the Northern Provice. Owned by US-based The Importers Inc, Sorwathe produces both CTC type and Orthodox type Black and Green tea, Organic tea, Semi fermented tea and Specialty tea.
  • Bralirwa: The largest brewer and soft beverage company in Rwanda.
  • Bramin: A major farm that produces mechanized and irrigated maize for Bralirwa. Bramin is a partnership of Bralirwa and Minimex, the largest produces of fine maize products in the country.
  • Inyange Industries: One of Rwanda’s leading food processing companies that engages in the production of mineral water, fruit juices, milk and other dairy products.
  • Caferwa and its Nkora coffee washing station: A coffee exporting company that owns Rwanda’s biggest coffee washing station, located on the lakeshore of Lake Kivu.
  • Rwanda Stock Exchange
  • Rwanda Development Board

 
What additional academic activities occurred during the visit?
Apart from the business meetings, the delegation also followed an invitation by the University of Rwanda’s College of Business & Economics in order to network with local colleagues. As part of the discussion, one of the Rwandan faculty members presented his research work on “The impact of newness on survival of an industry – the case of manufacturing in Rwanda”. Likewise, one of the delegates from George Washington University presented her book on “Institutional reform and diaspora entrepreneurs: the in-between advantages.

Furthermore, we were able to organize a meeting with the Minister of Education and the Ministry’s Director of Science, Technology & Research. Here, the participants learned about the education system and recent success stories, such as the promotion of education for all and the strengthening of the relevance of education to the job market.

Last but not least, the delegation visited the US Embassy to learn about American support programs in Rwanda.
 
Did the delegation also enjoy some cultural activities while in Rwanda?
A thorough cultural and historical foundation is important to understand today’s Rwanda. As a result, the delegation visited several sites of historical value, including the old King’s Palace, the Ethnographic Museum, the Kigali Memorial Center and the Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial. Smaller groups of delegates also enjoyed a cultural walking tour that we organized with the women of the Nyamirambo Women’s Center, and some participants took part in the ubiquitous gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. A cultural highlight was an evening with traditional dance and music, organized at Lake Kivu in Gisenyi.

What are the lessons that the participants were able to draw from their experience?
We were able to give the delegation a range of examples why Rwanda is frequently mentioned as a major development success story. But we also found it important to demonstrate that entrepreneurs continue to face a lot of challenges in this small landlocked country with limited resources. Some of these challenges include regular electricity shortages, high transportation costs, limited technology literacy, high taxation, or very unrealistic consumer price expectations.

As a result, we believe that the participants have collected a lot of examples for new case studies based on developing country contexts, and their students will greatly benefit from this. Rwanda’s economic and structural reforms towards sustainable economic growth are frequently praised – and rightly so. What’s particularly noteworthy is that a lot of the solutions in Rwanda are actually homegrown.

We were thrilled to see that several faculty members have developed an interest to plan their own faculty-led programs to take their students to Rwanda. These visits could either focus on a concrete theme that the students explore in greater detail, or they could also be based on consulting abroad projects. For the latter, we particularly recommend to also invite Rwandan students to work hand in hand with the foreign students. Such a program would offer invaluable opportunities to develop international business expertise as well as cultural intelligence – and it would also greatly benefit the development of business capacity in Rwanda.
 


Interested to develop your own business program in Rwanda or another GEI destination? Click here to download a copy of our Business Program Portfolio.