What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
After spending several months in Africa, I have seen a lot of strange things and it has all begun to be quite normal. Therefore, the contrast of Kigali, Rwanda was actually the strangest thing I have seen in a while. The streets were impeccably clean, everything was organized and you couldn’t find corruption anywhere. The harassing street hawkers weren’t trying to sell me the same worthless junk or “Made in China” African statues and masks like everywhere else, but rather USB sticks, Oxford English dictionaries and Economist magazines. Compared to the past few months, this was very strange!
Describe a typical day:
On most days, I met with a handful of young African entrepreneurs, start-up incubators, businesses and local investment funds. I would spend most of the day commuting around town on the back of a boda-boda motorcycle taxi to meet with these individuals and organizations. I would always try to squeeze in random sites and attractions along the way when I had time.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
I spent an afternoon with a Maasai family in Kenya. The father of the family had four wives and forty children. Two of the wives, and their children, lived in a series of huts in a remote part of Kenya. I spent time with them and they explained some of their customs to me (one of the sons happened to know some English), gave me tea with milk from one of their goats and asked me plenty of questions about America and Europe.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
The people could not be more friendly, hospitable and excited to have a visitor. It made me feel extremely welcome and I wanted to immediately pass on that attitude to everyone I encountered.
I disliked the very weak power grid in many of the places. Normally I would never care about this, but since I am working remotely and have to be connected to my business, it made it difficult for me when the power and internet would randomly go out without warning.
Describe a challenge you faced:
Inspired by my failed attempt to storm the Burj Al Arab a couple field reports ago (Dubai and the world’s most extravagant, well, everything), I decided to successfully infiltrate the Rwanda Stock Exchange. My strategy was to look like I was in a hurry, like I knew where I was going and if anyone asked, throw out a lot of finance talk and seem very frustrated that they delayed something so obviously important. As I approached the only tall building in Kigali, the mission appeared to work perfectly. But to my disappointment, no one seemed to care. Someone eventually greeted me by the stairwell with a smile and asked where I was headed. I responded and they simply pointed me in the right direction. I walked right in and walked around until someone introduced themselves and proceeded to show me around the small exchange with only four companies.
What new lesson did you learn?
The best way to see Africa is with an all-terrain vehicle. You can easily travel between countries and major cities by bus, but when you look out the window, you realize how much you miss along the way and will have no way of exploring if you didn’t have a car to take you there. I want to come back and see Africa (and the world rather) like this guy: 23 year / 50,000 Mile Road Road Trip.