We just arrived in Dar Es Salaam, and all of us are very impressed with what we experienced in Rwanda. The bar has been set high for Tanzania, but we trust it will be up to expectations.
Before the official trip started, our group was split into two pre-trips: A visit to the gorillas in Volcano National Park and a safari in Akagera National Park. They were both amazing! The gorilla group came back very enthusiastic about how close they got to them, and we saw, among others, 3 of the so-called ‘Big 5’: An elephant, two lions and a lot of buffalos. It was also exciting to find some crocodiles and hippo by a lake.
The official trip started on the 22nd of August – a welcome dinner in Kigali, where we finally all got together. We kicked off the company visits the next day with Mara Phones. The plant we visited is just being finished now, and both of the company’s 2 phone models are expected to launch in September. They will be phones made ‘by Africans for Africans – as well as the rest of the world’; the company will be based in Kigali, employ Rwandans – including 60% women – and initially target African markets.
After Mara Phone we visited Africa Improved Foods. The company is producing an enriched porridge aimed at providing the nutrition that pregnant women and infants from 6 months onwards require, and in the process is also helping to improve the economic conditions of Rwandan farmers. It counts large international organizations as its backers and clients.
We closed the day’s visits with Fablabs, where we learned how a few young Rwandan entrepreneurs are tackling problems like clean water supply with the support of this branch of the incubator. Afterwards, we still had time to visit the Genocide museum. I don’t think words can do justice to the atrocity and extent of human suffering that defined this period of Rwanda’s recent history.
The weekend was dedicated to a trip to see the chimpanzees close to lake Kivu. We drove probably over 15 hours in total to be able to see them, which allowed the group to really bond and get to know each other in the van – a nice side effect. Seeing the chimps themselves in their natural habitat was of course an amazing experience – watching them get rowdy when one of the leaders showed up in the middle of their ficus meal was really funny.
I think it’s fair to say that Zipline, the company we visited on Monday is among the group’s favorites. They started around 5 years ago and deliver medicines to hospitals and other healthcare facilities with drones, solving the problem of access in regions with insufficient infrastructure. Everything about them was impressive – their sophisticated drones, the UI they developed to track them, the logistics behind sorting out the pharmaceuticals – and it was super cool watching the drones be launched and land again. Zipline also employs top local talent and counts leading global VCs among their backers.
Just before leaving the town we visited the local market, where we set out to see who could knock off the most from whatever item they decided to purchase by haggling with the merchants. Gang was the winner with 70% off a pair of wooden masks, closely followed by Gavin, who got 63% off a pair of woven baskets. Pretty impressive!
As you can see, Rwanda provided us great experiences and we are thrilled for Tanzania. I’m sure I will also be talking about how amazing it is in just a few days. Stay tuned!
Pedro Anjos is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School