A decade ago when Rwanda tourism authorities decided to launch “Kwita izina” (Gorillas naming ceremony), people jokingly said that gorillas had become more important than human beings. In the Rwandan culture this ceremony normally happens in a family after the birth of a newborn.
When this ceremony was launched back in 2004, the public was skeptical about the decision to value baby gorillas the way human beings babies are in the rwandan society. After decades of civil wars that had plagued gorilla’s natural habitat and exposed them to poachers, it was necessary to protect them from imminent extinction.
Communities around Volcanoes National`s Park consisting of 125 km2 of mountain forest where the world famous mountain gorillas live were against the government`s move to stop their poaching activities. Villagers were used to enter the forests of the volcanoes for hunting purposes or to collect wild honey thus interrupting the natural ecosystem that sustains the gorilla populations.
The sudden change could not wholeheartedly be welcomed. Ten years later the same communities have come to understand the sustainable value of protecting mountains gorillas. Not only they promote the image of the country at the international level thus growing tourism revenues but also communities are now directly benefiting from tourism revenues.
The government in 2005 launched the Shared Tourism Revenue Scheme whereby 5% of annual tourism park revenues would be channelled into community development projects. Since then a total of 360 initiatives have been funded by the scheme country-wide, including roads, water facilities, health centres, cooperatives and more according to a press release by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in June, 2014.
During the 10th anniversary of Kwita Izina (the annual gorilla naming ceremony) this year, a primary school was launched in Nyabihu District in north-western parts of Rwanda by RDB. The school consists of six classrooms and will be attended by over 380 students and was built with funding from the Shared Tourism Revenue Scheme that comes from 5% of annual tourism park revenues.
While speaking at its launch, RDB’s Head of Tourism and Conservation Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi said: “Conservation is not just about maintaining the parks, natural features and wildlife; it is also about empowering communities. Through this school, we hope to transform the lives of children in the area by enabling easy access to education facilities.”
Each initiative among the 360 that were funded since 2005 had a positive impact on community development. The livelihoods of communities around the park areas have been improving year by year as the country`s tourism revenues increase. In 2013, Rwanda hosted 1,137,000 visitors who generated $294m, up from $62m in 2000. Mountains gorillas have also registered a 26.3% growth since 2003 thanks to Kwita Izina that played a key role in this success.
The same people who used to threaten the parks and its biodiversity have come to conclude that gorillas constitute a key asset to their communities. They are now ones of strongest advocates for its conservation.
Over the course of eight weeks, I came across a 20 year old computer science student from Harvard University. Stephen Turban is such a brilliant and hard working young man who would impress anyone who observes the way he works.
During the time he has been in Rwanda, the American young man spent most of his time at kLab which is an open space for IT entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate. He got funding from his school and came over for a social media health internship.
He had been working with a couple of students from the college of medicine and health at the University of Rwanda to create a template for making radio more interactive. His team was made up of two college students from Harvard and a couple of partner’s students from the University of Rwanda.
“We have been creating a health radio program that focuses on social media in a way that impact health”, said Stephen. How do you use social media in a way that impact health? “Ultimately the question comes back to how you use Face book, twitter, etc to make people take better healthcare decisions.
When he first come to Rwanda he started learning about media landscape and realized that the only way to communicate with people is through radio. About 90% of the population regularly listens to the radio. “So we realized that we have to use radio if we want to be relevant and in order to do something that can impact the community”, noted the Harvard Student.
He told me that the best way to make behavior change is to make a program that is interactive. “In that sense we were creating a radio program that is interactive through social media. The radio program is based at Radio Salus which is one of popular radio stations in Rwanda.
The health related program run every Thursday and Stephen`s team wanted to make it more interactive so that it can create a real behavior change in the community.
IT community at kLab
Stephen had no idea about Kigali and was expecting to find himself in a small city in east Africa. To his surprise he found a vibrant city that offered him a place where he had been interacting with young Rwandan IT entrepreneurs at kLab.
“As I am preparing myself to go back home, I will always remember the incredible people from kLab. I have been thinking a lot about my time in Rwanda and Klab always come in mind because that where I spent most of my time working on my project.
“This is a community of people who are always ready to help each other. They have such tenacity to build something new”.
Missouri and Kigali city
Stephen internship time gave him a chance to see the difference between Rwanda and his home region. I have been here for eight weeks and am about to head back home to the great city of Missouri in the mid west of the USA.
He said that Missouri is so different with the lands of thousand hills. “Rwanda in general is a land of hills but Missouri can be apply named the land of thousands fields of corns”.
“Missouri is pretty flat but not as other mid western states. There are lots agriculture fields and has many parts that are rural but also other that are urban. His home place has two large cities : St Louis and Kansas City. Stephen grew up in Missouri where his family have been staying since his childhood.
For the time I have been observing Stephen busy working and collaborating with young Rwandan IT entrepreneurs, I remarked that he is a hard working young man. I decided to find out his family background to know its impact on his behavior.
“My parents grew up focusing on learning and my dad favorite phrase is “developing as a person”. His mother was pushing him and his sister to work hard in school but she never told them what she expected from them.
“My parents made me see that learning is something cool to pursue and this is something we got from them.
Stephen`s dad, Daniel Turban is a professor of management studies at the University of Missouri. His mother is a real estate investor and owns a couple of rental properties.
He told me that his father is interested in issues such as happiness and productivity. “When I come home in the night from visiting my friends, I always find my dad reading magazines such as The Time, The Economist or National Geographic”.
“My mum on the other side is interested in subject such as plumbing, painting so they have different passions”. Stephen has one sibling which is his sister who just graduated from the University of Saint Louis in aviation management and has a pilot license.
Stephen has got two huge dreams. In short term he want to become fully fluent in Chinese. “I want to be able to read and say anything in Chinese and that takes a lot of practice.”
“I love learning and there is so much fun in doing so”. He spent five years learning Spanish and speaks it pretty well.
Learning Spanish was easy for him as it is similar to English. “When you are learning it as someone who has an English background, you don`t really push yourself hard on how you think.” He said that you figure out easy formula and how to apply them well.
Stephen wanted to learn a language that challenges him to think in different way. “I am lucky because my parents grew up in Hawaii which has an Asia predominant culture”.
He thinks that in every place you find two main cultures. “In the South of the USA, we have the first US culture and the second culture is Mexican.”
The same apply in Hawaii where there is the first American culture then the Asia culture. “My parents come from there and when I was growing up I felt comfortable around Asia culture such as Asia food and people from there”. So that is why I became interested in learning Chinese.
Stephen said that he is lucky during this vacation as he was able to discover Rwanda and will also go to China after his reach home.”I will be back in Missouri for six days hanging out with my family and friends enjoying the beauty of Missouri”.
“Afterwards I am going to be in China for ten days. I am so excited by having been invited at the Youth Olympic in Nanjing which is in the Southern parts of China”. Though it is for a short stay, it will be an opportunity for him to develop Chinese language.
Stephen also dream to start a company with his friends within the next two years. “The company is about self improvement and that could be about a lot of things. It can be about productivity or learning . I really love becoming better at something.”
Rwanda is becoming a growing destination for internship students from the US and Stephen is one of them that I had an opportunity to personally know.
It was a pleasure knowing him and I wish him well in his future endeavors. I jokingly told him that he should not forget about me when he become the next Mark Zuckerberg as he has what it takes to be successful in his future career.
IN its fourth edition, Kigali Up music festival brought world class live music performances to the city dwellers. All ways were leading to Amahoro National stadium in the weekend of 19th to 20th. More than ten thousand people turned up to the annual music festival as renowned artists from all corners of the world entertained the excited public.
The festival was not only a time to enjoy music and dances performances but also an opportunity for visitors and tourists to discover what Kigali city has to offer in terms of art and music. Food and drinks were served all along the festival as visitors and tourists tasted to local as well as international meals. Rwandan arts were also on sale in different exhibition stands that were displayed inside the stadium.
The festival attracted renowned artists from the United States such as Joey Blake and Rhonda Benin, Didier AWADI from Senegal and Rwandan artistes from the Diaspora such as Ben Kayiranga among others local and regional artists. Rhonda Benin in collaboration with a group of young Rwandan artists thrilled the crowd with “Because I`m happy” performance.
Rhonda thanked the organizers of the festival for inviting her to perform on her continent of origin. Rhonda is an African American artist whose roots hail in Africa. She reminded the audience that her people suffered and perished during slavery and should also be remembered every time Rwandan pay respect to those who lost their lives during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. .
Didier AWADI is going home after having made a lasting impression in the spirit of many in the audience according to Social media comments. He organized a workshop with local hip pop artists and their performances would remain one of the key highlights in this year edition. Kigali Up is therefore playing an inspiring role to local artists by exposing them to international artists through workshops.
The director of Kigali Up music festival, Charles Murigande also known as Mighty Popo expressed his satisfaction on the overall success of the event. He said that organizing such kind of festival is a challenge in itself but that he is ready to take on. “This festival is growing from the grassroots and we will be growing up and up”, noted the Rwandan Canadian artist.
Mighty Popo stressed the importance of Kigali Up music festival in boosting the image of Rwanda as a growing tourist’s destination. The latter is the 15th festival accepted in Africa under the Africa Music festival network and Rwanda has been accepted into this network because of Kigali Up. The music festival is establishing itself as one of the events that tourists will be attending as they visit the land of thousands hills.
Murigande plays guitar and is an artist, musician, composer, and actor. He has performed in various Canadian folk festivals where he lived for 27 years. Now he is back in Rwanda and is managing the first public music school ever in Rwanda. He is one of many Rwandan in the Diaspora that regularly chooses to come back home and be part of a new RWANDA.
WOMEN`S emancipation has been one of the key features of the 21st century. In Rwanda they actually occupy 64% of parliament seats which is a record worldwide. In many parts of Africa, women have also come to believe that they can achieve their dreams as their male counterparts.
On a recent Rwanda air flight from Johannesburg to Kigali, I happened to sit next to a 22-year-old student from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Nadia Ahmed is a psychology student at Midrand Graduate Institute (MGI) in Cape Town and was on her way home for a one month winter holiday. She is an open minded young woman whose face shines with a beautiful smile.
A look to a Hijab covering her head can tempt you to think that she is a conservative young Muslim woman who is there to be married soon and become a full time mother. When I engaged her in a talk I quickly realized that I was wrong. Though her mother sacrificed her career as a housewife, Nadia is not ready to follow her mum steps. “My father advised me to avoid a husband who would like to keep me at home”, she confided to me.
His father was born in Tanzania and his roots hail from Oman. He had to force his way to school against the wish of his father wish who wanted him to be a shopkeeper after primary school. As a young man, he was determined to finish high school then go on to the university. He left home against his father`s will to pursue his dream and was lucky to meet well-wishers who funded him to complete his education up to the University of Dar Es Saalam. For Nadia to have such a courageous father had a positive impact on her passion to pursue her education and a dream to a professional career in future.
She is actually in her second year in the faculty of psychology and is determined to achieve her dream. Being far away from home comes with challenges but also opportunity to develop her independence. Nadia has to manage her finances, social life as well as keep committed to her studies. “I don`t behave like local students who most of the time stay with their family”, said Nadia. She refuses to be distracted by late parties that her fellow classmates attend most weekends.
Off course as a young person, she has her own way of spending her free time. She carefully chooses serious students with whom she socializes. “We go to a dinner in a restaurant then later on go to a cinema and after that we proceed back home”, noted Nadia. She also trains three times in a week in a gym as a way to keep herself in good shape and stay healthy.
Nadia keeps reminding herself that the only purpose that brought her to South Africa is to get her psychology degree and practice one year to gain experience then go on with her graduate studies in Germany. Her school helps its bachelor degree graduate to get internships with institutions all over the country and they complete their studies with a license to practice as a counselor from the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
Being away from her family has contributed something to her financial responsibility. Nadia works part time jobs as a baby sitter as well as a tutor to primary pupils. In addition to that she works in the university library to increase her income. When she comes back from holidays Nadia will start working in the gym as a way of diversifying her revenues streams.
In each academic year she has two holidays one in winter time that last one month and the other in summer that last almost three months. In all these holidays she needs to go home to visit her family but it has decided to pay a flight ticket only once in winter holidays.
Nadia has to work all the above parts time jobs for her to afford a return ticket to visit her family and friends in Dar es Salaam. “I have a saving account where I keep my incomes and savings from my family allowances so that by the time winter holidays start I buy my ticket and fly home”, noted the bright young woman. She is also nurturing her saving culture so that she will be able to financially contribute to her master degree costs in Germany.
“My dad is the sole bread winner in our family and nearing his retirement so I feel like I don`t want my education costs to burden him”, said Nadia. Her dad has sacrificed a lot towards her four elder sibling’s education who attended university studies in the United Kingdom. The reason why she always wants to go home for holiday is to inspire her young brother to study hard so that he can earn a university scholarships in the United States.
As soon as she receives her bachelor degree, she want to work one year in South Africa to get experience and earn an income that will contribute towards her master degree costs in Germany. Nadia has fallen in love with Germany during many holidays she had with her family in Europe and would like to go there for her master degree. If it was not for languages barriers and her love for Africa, Germany would have been her destination for her undergraduate studies.
Nadia would definitely like to come back to Africa when she completes her studies in Germany. “The future is in Africa so I would like to have my career at home and serve the continent as I love to give back to the community. Her father has been a member of Rotary Club International in Tanzania and was recently elected as its president. She gets an inspiration from her dad to always do those activities that can better the world.
She is putting in much efforts in her studies and plan for the future. She wishes to get married and have a family of her own by the time she graduate. The only thing she is not ready to accept is a husband who would like to keep her home as a housewife. “I don`t like to see my degrees hanging on walls collecting dusts considering much effort and resources that are being spent towards my education”. Nadia Ahmed is ready to embrace a future of a modern woman without neglecting the customs of her religion.
Exchange of goods and services has never been easy for people who live on the border between Rubavu district in the western parts of Rwanda and the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is estimated by Rwanda immigration authorities that around 22000 people cross that border every day as they are involved in cross-border trade. .
This exchange had been going on from generations to generations but people who are involved faces tough challenges as they informally trade between these two borders. The large majority are poor people who earn less than two dollars a day. “Abakarani” in local language are people who carry goods on their back, head or using bicycle. They are mostly dominated by women, young men who have to carry heavy bags full of products crossing both borders.
Any observer to this trade would sympathize with these people given their relentless courage. They have to go through tough immigration controls on both side of the border in addition to having to bribe policemen. I happen to be at the border as Rwanda and DRC were celebrating their independence day and could not imagine if really these people are living in the 21st century. Almost everyone I talked to was crying foul on the circumstances in which they are working in.
Domitila Babyiruke is 41 years old and a mother of three. She contracted poliomyelitis when she was young and had been a handicap ever since. She is part of a cooperative of over hundred handicaps who own bicycles that transport goods from both side of the border. Her bicycle has been transformed in a way that it can carry more than half a ton of goods. She told me that she is hopeless as every day brings further complications to their trade.
A look at her bicycle just reveals you how innovative human beings can be when their livelihoods are threatened. She employs three young men who help her to push the huge bicycle packed with all sorts of goods. Sitting on top of her packed bicycle, she told me that poor people involved in cross-border trade have been left to themselves.
Recently a three moths US$ 50 was announced by Congolese authorities for all citizens from Rwanda going to trade in DRC. This measure came to further deteriorate their working conditions and it was a surprise for the Rwandan government. DRC, Burundi and Rwanda are part of The Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC) which is a sub-regional organization with multiple vocations created by the signing of the Agreement of Gisenyi in Rwanda on September 20, 1976.
One of the aims of this community was to promote the trade and the traffic of persons and their possessions between member states. Surprisingly DRC authorities ignored its mandate in this community and announced a visa fees to vulnerable people who are already working in “stone ages” conditions. This measure not only harms people from Rwanda but also Congolese citizens living in Goma who buy almost everything from Rwanda.
I engaged a group of women from both sides of the border as they were busy carrying heavy bags on their back and heads. They told me that they are facing excessive taxes that they most of the time pay without any receipt. “On the Rwanda side everything is well organized but as you cross to Goma that is where things become so complicated”, confided Florence a 23 years old Congolese woman. They questioned how DRC authorities think cross-border traders will be getting visas fees when they earn less than 2 dollars a day with huge families responsibilities.
Theoneste Ndagijimana a 43 years old citizen from Rubavu district in Rwanda pointed out to me how most of goods flow from Rubavu district to Goma. As a result of a long conflict that has plagued the Eastern parts of DRC, its citizens don`t cultivate as they fear armed groups. Women who used to till their lands can no longer go to their farms for fear of being raped. This is one of the reasons why they resolve to source almost everything from Rwanda.
“If Rwanda takes the same decision as DRC, where citizens from Goma would be sourcing goods they need on a daily basis”? Questioned a group of men and women I was engaging in a discussion. Theoneste said that Rwanda and DRC governments should sit together and discuss so that their citizens can freely exchange goods and services they need. Citizens from both side of the border exchange agriculture produce, milks, groceries, sugar, oils, water among many other products. Banking, education, transport, healthcare among other services are also exchanged.
Cross-borders traders have also to pay bribes and suffer harassment. Women and men I talked to revealed me that they have to bribe policemen more than 50% of their meagre income. This situation is worse on the other side of DRC`s border where I observed policemen harassing women carrying goods and small infants. They forcefully ask for bribes and most of the time confiscates goods of people who fail to do so. These goods disappear and traders have to bear losses every time they cross the border.
In spite of huge potentiality that cross-border trade provide to DRC and Rwanda, respective governments haven`t unfortunately created favorable working conditions to their cross-borders traders. Although a glimpse of hope is still far away, there is a hope that a day will come when trade will flow from both side in a conditions that are respectful to human beings.
Africa is home to all and artificial borders that had been erected since colonial times are only there to harm social and economic development of the continent. It is therefore high time for these borders to be lifted up so that Africans can exchange goods and services as it had always been before colonialism.
By the time I attended primary school in the late 1980`s and early 1990`s, Jackie Chan movies were popular in town. We used to skip school to go to watch his movies. I had no idea that two decades later I would have an opportunity to visit Hong Kong, Jackie Chan`s city of birth.
On a busy day in late May this year, I received an email from Brigitte Read, the head of China-Africa project at Wits University in Johannesburg. I am one of the fellows of this project having researched a story about China influence in construction industry in Rwanda. She asked me if I am interested to take part in the New Now Next Media Conference that would take place at Hong Kong University from 6-8 June 2014.
Immediately I agreed as this opportunity was coming to fulfill my childhood dream. One of the thing that surprised me as I was preparing this trip was that citizens from Rwanda don`t need a visa to enter Hong Kong if their stay does`t exceed 14 days. So everything was set for me to travel with a group of five African journalists from Uganda (Fredrick Mugira), Namibia (John Grobler), Ufrieda Ho and Brigitte Read from South Africa. Unfortunately one journalist from Nigeria who supposed to travel with us could`t secure his visa on time.
I traveled from Kigali to Johannesburg then the next day to Hong Kong which is almost a 14 hours flight. I reached Oliver Tambo International Airport in the evening with Rwanda Air flight and was supposed to sleep at Protea hotel inside the airport. The next morning I bumped into Fredrick as he was just arrived from Kampala with South African Airways. We shared breakfast as we were waiting to meet others. Next we met John and later on in the afternoon we caught up with Ufrieda and Brigitte. We updated each other around food and drinks in a restaurant before taking the long flight to Hong Kong.
As one of the crew of the South African Airways was announcing that we are landing in 10 minutes, I opened the window to look down and contemplate the city I had been dreaming to visit since my childhood. I saw islands surrounded by Pearl River delta and South China Sea in which big vessels were shipping containers to other parts of the world. I could also see the city tall buildings as the captain was trying to land the plane. We landed at almost midday and we were lucky to be received by Ufrieda sister and his husband who are living in Hong Kong.
We had to go through immigration controls which we quickly completed without major problem. Only Fredrick from Uganda had to be asked many questions on what he is coming to do. I guess it is because he was wearing a T-sheet in addition to being African whom Hong Kong authorities suspect to come to seek green pastures in the city. We proceeded to Ramada Hotel first with a train then with a taxi. We were all exhausted having spent the whole night traveling so we needed to rest but we had also to attend a function at foreign club correspondent.
The later is a meeting place for Hong Kong`s media, business and diplomatic community. Brigitte had tipped us to dress smartly and we had all put on our best outfits. I had an opportunity to catch up with famous journalists I used to watch on CNN, Wall street journal, BBC Asia, Reuters among other international media organizations. I respectively caught up with Kristie Lu Stout, Julie Makinen, Kevin Sites, Ramy Inocencio among others. I was awed with the high profile of journalists present besides the friendly atmosphere that was reigning inside the room.
We concluded the night with a dinner in one high class restaurant not far from the foreign club correspondent. We had Chinese food I can`t exactly remember but which tasted very good thanks to Ufrieda who has a Chinese roots and was the one who helped us to make order. Everything was new to me from food to the environment I was about to live in for the next days. Hong Kong transport system as well as its architecture amazed me to the point I was taking pictures all the time.
Hong Kong University
The next morning we had to proceed to Hong Kong University to register for the conference. The AAJA-ASIA`S 4TH conference attracted a huge turnout of journalists and media professionals from all over Asia to discuss some of the biggest stories in the region and challenges in covering them. The conference tackled challenges the media industry is facing and the necessary
skills reporters will need in what is expected to be a constantly evolving digital landscape.
Ying Chan, Director of Hong Kong University`s Journalism and media studies welcomed all participants ahead of the opening panel in which editors of some of the leading news organizations discussed the changing dynamic of the newsroom. Every participant I was talking to was surprised to know that I came all the way from Africa to take part in the conference. Even Ying Chan was awed and decided to take us for a dinner at foreign club correspondent later the following week. On the picture above you can see me with Dr Masato Kajimoto who is a lecture at Hong Kong university in the department of Journalism.
A variety of panels
There were many panels in which participants could attend. I chose to take part in Tian`anmen 25 Years later: The Shoot Seen Around the World in which Kristie Lu Stout conversed with Jeff Widener the famous photographer of “Tank Man” . During the panel I asked Jeff what kind of photographic project he would like to undertake in Africa. I was expecting him to say that he can go to capture image of what is going on in South Sudan but he told me that he can choose to go to Angola to shoot the scenes of children living in poverty.
I also attended various panels such as “building your own digital domain” by Kenneth Tan, Tom Grundy, Alex Hotz and Wan Lam. Others panels I took part in are respectively “You Can Be a Freelancing Success”, “Landing a Job in the Digital Age”, “Women Leaders in Journalism”, “Mobile Journalism 101”, and “MH370: Lessons Learned From a Mysterious Crisis”. The latter was focused on how to cover an incident such as the one of the missing Malaysia Airlines that was traveling in early March from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
I was targeting panels that can empower me to move my freelance journalism work to the next level. In Rwanda where I work, journalists struggle to make end meet as they are poorly paid and work in difficult conditions. I like my job more than anything so I had to choose to be a freelance journalist to see if I can diversify my sources of income and stay in business. All the panels I was targeting had something to do with improving my career. Some of the challenges I have to cope up with are to find media organizations to buy my articles the reason why I attended “You Can Be a Freelancing Success”.
China growing influence
One of the phenomenon that was discussed in one of the panels is the growing China influence in Hong Kong. This is the same thing happening in Africa where you find that Chinese investments are growing in all parts of Africa. China is often accused of turning a blind eye on human rights violations in counties where it does business.
In Diaoyu Debacle: Asia on the brink panel, Steve Herman said that Hong Kong plays a great role to inspire positive values to China. However he was concerned on the growing economic influence China is having on Hong Kong which might undermine its value system. He noted that Hong Kong should be internationalized instead of being “Chinalized”.
Nathaniel Sue a student at Hong Kong university told me that people there think that their city enjoyed a good time under British rule. He said that Britain was a temporary owner of Hong Kong at that time and people still think it was a better owner. ” At least at that time Hong Kong had her own autonomy, everything was in better order with less political influence from China”, said Sue. He noted that Chinese influence is there to stay: politically, economically and socially.
Glamorous Chinese dinner
On Saturday night all delegates were invited to a Chinese dinner at foreign club correspondent. It was an exciting experience to eat food with chopsticks for the first time. My friend John from Namibia tried his best to help and I was finally able to use them though not perfectly. During the dinner I learned that number nine in Chinese represent good luck and long life. The reason they serve you nine different types of food for an official dinner.
We ended our night at Lan Kwai Fong which is a party district. This is one of the best places to party, booze and hang-out with friends. This place features a den of streets packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants. That this place is an extended warm up before stumbling into the Wan Chai area later in the night. Unfortunately we had to go back to the hotel to get some rest and take part in the conference for the last day on Sunday.
One of us was lucky to win a mobile phone during a lottery that was organized to end the conference. The conference gave me an opportunity to learn and make lasting connections with experienced journalists from around the world whom we might collaboration in future.
Time for my next assignment
As the conference was ending I had to focus my attention on the next assignment which was to investigate how Africans are coping up with life in the city. I was able to catch up with young men from Gambia, Togo and other parts of Africa who are trying to make a living in Hong Kong. I found out that the city is home to more than 2000 asylum seekers from Africa who most of the time are treated as economic migrants. Those who are married to Hong Kong citizens are better off as they can work and have a normal life.
Besides my assignment I had quality time visiting famous place in Hong Kong Island and on the other side in Kowloon. One needs to board a ferry near Hong Kong maritime museum to cross the sea to Kowloon which is an urban area comprising the Kowloon peninsula and New Kowloon. Brigitte took us to the street market where we bought some gifts to family members.
I had also time to hang out at Hong Kong Avenue des Stars which is known as a place Jacky Chan received stars. It is also near Hong Kong Museum of Arts, Hong Kong Cultural center and Hong Kong space museum. One of those memorable moments I had in Hong Kong was the symphony of lights. I happened to be at Victoria harbor exactly at 8 PM and was thrilled by the nightly multimedia show witch involves more than 40 buildings on both side of the harbor.
The Symphony of Lights
The Symphony of Lights were described as “’World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” by Guinness World Records. This place is packed with thousands of people every night from 8 to 8: 15 PM busy taking memorable pictures and videos. I met French, Germans, Koreans, Chinese tourists among others who were all amazed like me “the boy from East Africa”.
As the colored lights, laser beam perform in unforgettable fashion, we were listening to the show`s music and English narration along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.
Time to say goodbye
As our trip was nearing its end, our leader Brigitte took us to our last dinner on top of the mountain at The Peak Lookout. This is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and has been the city’s most exclusive neighborhood since colonial times. From this peak I could see sparkling skyscrapers and Victoria harbor all the way to the new territories. The restaurant offers a menu with a wide variety of choices, and is renowned for offering the best and freshest seafood.
I described this dinner as the “world class dinner” for its quality and taste. I had Tandoori Salmon Salad with pickled cippolini onions, cucumber raita, and marinated lentils. The combination of relaxed atmosphere and the live band which was playing as we ate made that night “a wonderful one” I will always cherish in my heart. We ended our journey in a beautiful way as it had started.
I can underline that we were lucky because no major incident occurred as it sometimes happen when a group of people travel to a destination. We took our flight back home the next morning with a sense of joy and fulfillment. We finally parted our ways at Oliver Tambo International airport as everyone flew to his home country.
Thanks for everyone in the group especially to Brigitte Read who organized this memorable trip.
Now guess what I will tell Jacky Chan when I happen to bump into him !!!
I first opened my email address back in 1998 during the Rwanda International Trade Fair when it used to take place at Amahoro stadium. The provider of the service was an internet cafe that was once popular in town. I was excited for being able to instantly communicate with my friends that lived in different parts of the world.
Many people did not have emails address at that time and were even ignorant what an email or internet service were. In a matter of less than two years, a big number of people had opened their first emails but had also started using internet for various reasons. These needs ushered the birth of internet cafe in town.
The latter became a good business opportunity for many entrepreneurs that jumped on the occasion. I cannot say how many entrepreneurs made a fortune out of internet cafes but I can only confirm that a bunch of them made fortune. Internet cafe spread in different parts of Kigali city even in villages throughout Rwanda.
Internet services used to take more than 70% of my pocket money as I was communicating with friends but also doing researches for scholarships opportunities that I could benefit. YouTube was my popular destination on the internet and I ended up spending more than I had planned.
This phenomenon was not unique to me as more and more people adopted internet services to the benefit of internet cafe owners. Two decades later internet cafes are no longer a profitable business ventures it used to be. A number of factors have contributed to their downfall.
The development of communication sectors over the last two decades is to be blamed. Back in 1998 Rwanda had only one Telecommunication Company which is still present: MTN Rwanda.
Actually Rwanda boasts two more telecommunication companies in the name of Airtel and Tigo Rwanda. According to Rwanda Utility Regulation Authority (RURA), Rwanda’s mobile penetration rate currently stands at 55 per cent of the country’s population of 10.5 million.
The latter made it possible for many people to own a mobile phone for the first time. Another factor that pushed internet cafes out of business is the government willingness to install internet connections in all its offices. Employees of government agencies which constituted a big number of internet cafes customers find themselves no longer in need of their services. As time goes on more private and public organizations followed the lead by installing the internet in their offices.
More and more internet cafes started closing their doors back in 2008 and it is only a handful of them that are remaining in town. Mobile technology came later to threaten them as telecommunications companies started giving affordable internet services to their customers.
As more and more people acquired mobile phones over the last five years, the downhill trend in internet cafe continued. People started accessing their emails on their mobile devices and did not have to go to internet cafes.
Creative destruction phenomenon took internet cafes out of business in a matter of less than two decades. Joseph Schumpeter describes creative destruction as the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”
Though one cannot say that internet cafes are completely out of business, one can point out the fact that they are no longer a business venture it used to be back in early 2000`s. Creative destruction is slowly and steadily taking internet cafes out of business. We are expecting to see other forms of businesses as a result of EASY availability of internet services.
New forms of business models over the internet have already started marking Rwanda`s business landscape. Websites that offer a variety of services and products are flourishing and this is just the beginning of a new era.
Internet cafes were only able to remain a viable business in just one decade and half. One might wonder which business model is next under threat as a result of innovation in information technology. One thing that entrepreneurs have to keep in mind is that business models are evolving the same way as technology does. They have to stay awake and make sure that the next wave of innovations won`t take them out of business.