5 Lessons From The 2016 World Economic Forum On Africa With Paul Kagame—Let's be Serious #AF16

5 Lessons From The 2016 World Economic Forum On Africa With Paul Kagame—Let's be Serious #AF16

“Let’s be serious.” —President Paul Kagame, Rwanda.

Howard Buffett sat there in his charisma. President Paul Kagame next to him, poised and dignified. Tony Blair shot a question to Buffett, asking him why he was a serious player in Rwandan investment.

"We wouldn't be thinking about doing anything we're planning," said Buffett, "if it weren't for President Kagame being at the helm."

#1 Great Leadership Gets Buffett to believe in your country. And everybody else.

The audience in the Plenary Session at this years World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa gave a short applause. Here's a few reasons why people love the Leadership of President Kagame:

  • Rwanda is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa.
  • It has next to zero litter on the ground. Because President Kagame encourages his people that "We don't need NGOs to clean our homes. Why should they clean our streets?"
  • Wi-fi is everywhere.
  • It takes 6 hours to register a business (no charge).
  • An international work permit takes 3 days.
  • Civil Servant leaders are publicly rated on their performance.
  • They’re building the first drone airport in the world in Kigali.
  • There's no indigenization policy.

A red carpet, Rwandan coffee, and a bus with wifi met the Global Shapers (GS) that had connected in Addis Ababa Airport. Fifty-one young leaders were selected from twenty-five different cities in Africa. Gerald Chirinda, myself (Tommy Deuschle), and Nicola Grace Hove were the Shapers representing Zimbabwe on this honored occasion.

Powerful people like Aliko Dangote and Ashish Thakkar were there, but what I took away wasn't the big statements, speeches or debates. It was the power of connection. The intangible shaping of one's character and vision almost by osmosis.

Where you'd expect to maybe get a big deal or an audience with an African billionaire (which could easily happen), it was rewarding to see where each conversation took you. I have to say that the Global Shaper initiative of the World Economic Forum has had powerful ripple effects all over the world.

#2 Collaboration is a King.

Global Shapers all over the globe have an uncanny trust factor. Anywhere in the world, a Global Shaper will connect, help and support another Shaper. The WEF created an initiative for 20 year-olds to collaborate, connect and change the world. Check out the #internet4all campaign or the Africa 80 Book Launch.

#3 Cash (or cows) Doesn't Matter.

During the Rwandan genocide, I always wondered how brother could kill brother, or family members destroy each other. I read at the memorial that the colonists split up tribes according to how many cows they had (economic status). So Tutsis were people who had 10 cows or more, and Hutus had 9 cows or less. That social division was the seed for the later unrest. As scripture says "treat your neighbor (whether he owns 10 cows or 2 cows) as yourself." No divide.

#4 Publish the Results.

According to the Rwandan Development Board, one of the reasons there's so much progress in the country is because each minister has public Key Result Areas (KRAs) and goals to reach. The citizens are allowed to report on unmet goals and the results (one a scale from 1 to 10) are published in the papers. So it's a reputation game mixed in with a bit of public accountability. It seems to be working.

#5 Change the Fate with Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

There was a time where Rwanda had to choose if they were going to convict the hundreds of thousands of people who were murderers and chauvinists in the genocide. That would have taken years to process through the court systems. Rwanda passed a new order which was: Let's focus on the future and repent for what we've done and forgive each other. A hard task, but apparently today Rwandans who were involved in the mass murders are still finding victimized families who they affected, knocking on their doors, and asking for forgiveness.

It was either justice or reconciliation. It seems reconciliation has taken them further than justice ever could. 

In 20 years, an African nation went from dead to alive, to thriving, and hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa. It gives hope to a continent that is home to many struggling people groups and suffering communities.

Africa can rise, but as Buffett alluded "leadership is everything."


Thank you to the Global Shapers for sending us on their behalf. To Chidiogo Akunyili (head of Africa’s Global Shapers), and Yemi Babington-Ashaye for founding the Shapers community. And of course, to Klaus Schwab for the vision of high level discussion and action.