For the first event in its How to Build a City series, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber on Friday morning welcomed former Rwandan government official Serge Kamuhinda as main speaker.
The event, held at the Sun Boardwalk Hotel, brought together over 120 guests to hear Kamuhinda’s account of Rwanda’s journey, from a history of genocide to becoming a poster child for progress.
Kamuhinda said the success achieved by Rwanda has been built on three specific values: “We choose to stay together, we choose to be accountable to ourselves and we choose to think big.
“More than a million people were killed [during the genocide]. That was the status quo we inherited. We chose to have a society based on values everyone can relate to.”
Kamuhinda said these values were visible in umuganda, which involves the community coming together one day each month to clean the city of Kigali, and in the country’s approach to promoting business growth through removing red tape. “In Rwanda, if you want to register a business, it is done within six hours online and then you can start doing business right away.”
Rwanda is currently the second best country in Africa in terms of the ease of doing business, and the third least corrupt country on the continent. It has also established itself as the third best destination for conferencing, by investing in hotels, establishing RwandAir and simplifying the visa process for foreign travellers. “We tend to see someone coming to our country as a customer experience – and then we track that experience.”
Kamuhinda said any city or country could fare as well as Rwanda – with the will of its leadership. “If Rwanda can improve, everyone else can do better. Leadership is the gap between potential and reality. Leadership has made the difference for us, even though all the odds were against us.”
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona said she had taken Kamuhinda’s lessons to heart. “If we focus on three things as a metro, it should be to dream big, start small and move fast,” said Mona. “We recognize that this city is more than just the negative energy; there is a lot of good happening in the city as well, but there is a backward movement.
“Whatever we do towards building a city, we need to make sure the human element [is included]. We hope we are creating a movement with this series, and we want everyone to participate.”
Mona said the Business Chamber aimed to host a How to Build a City event each month, to keep the conversation around the city’s progress going.
The next event will be held on the 10th of April, with speakers from the University of Toulouse in France addressing the issues around sustainable water supply.