Too infrequently do good business people get the praise they deserve. We are often quick to criticize and complain about the negative experiences we have with the service industry. However, during our last year in Rwanda, the two of us (young American NGO workers) have met three extraordinary business people and we want to make sure they get the praise they deserve. Not only as a public “thank you,” but also to publicize business role models with exceptionally admirable work ethic.
When the two of us decided to climb Nyiragongo volcano just outside of Goma, every one of our friends pointed us to the same tour guide:
Innocent, from Green Hills Eco-Tours (0788219495). Innocent took a potentially nerve racking experience and created one of the most stress-free, enjoyable adventures of our lives. He organized all of our visas, arranged for exceptional guides, and seamlessly helped us cross the border. When one of us had a problem with our CPGL visa, Innocent calmly and professionally talked with the border guards, effortlessly working through a situation that otherwise could have been fairly unpleasant. On another occasion when our gorilla trekking permits were stolen the day before we planned to visit the park, Innocent coordinated with park officials and RDB staff to resolve the issue. Despite us not having any form of ID (also stolen), nor any proof of purchase, Innocent was able to get replacement permits issued.
Everyone in Kigali has seen Sameer Hussein’s name printed on one of his offices or on the many TVS motorcycles that taxi people throughout the country. When the two of us approached a moto owning friend about buying bikes of our own, he couldn’t speak more highly of Sameer. For both of us, buying TVS GLX 125s was our first purchase as vehicle owners. Sameer walked us through the entire process. Never once getting impatient with our repetitive, nervous questions about a process he goes through countless times a day. He was flexible about payment, trusting us and doing significantly more than we’d ever expect to make the process as easy for us as possible, even when it came at the expense of his own convenience. He was always available when we had any questions and somehow always made time for us even during his busiest days. When I ultimately decided to sell my bike, Sameer again walked me through the whole process, directly helping with negotiation and hand-over. The day I went into his office to meet the person I was selling to, a third party walked in and offered Sameer more money for my bike. His response: “I’m sorry, Aaron, but even though this man is offering more money for the motorcycle, I already gave my word to your buyer that we agreed on the price.” My response: “I wouldn’t expect anything less honest and admirable from you.”
Finally, while we have had countless memorable experiences during our time in Rwanda, few compare to the utopian camping trip at Tentia’s bar on the shore of Lake Burera. About twenty minutes from Musanze, Tentia (0788816578) runs a humble bar-resto (no signage whatsoever) at a beautiful spot on the lake. Tentia greeted us with immense warmth and hospitality as we pitched our tent. She even cooked vegetables we had brought for the one vegetarian at no extra cost. The unassuming minimalism of Tentia’s setup made us feel like we had our own private campsite in one of Rwanda’s most stunning locations. This place is truly a diamond in the rough, and our desire to see Tentia’s business succeed is the only thing that convinced us to write about it at the risk of letting too many people in on this best kept secret. As we depart Rwanda we can’t help but reflect on the incredible direction this country is going in. All we hope is that humble, respectful, and kind people like Innocent, Sameer, and Tentia are the ones forging the path on how to run businesses throughout the country. With utmost sincerity, thank you.