“Allow me to introduce myself”, I’m Laura Buhler, a member of the KF8 class.
I am from Calgary, Canada and have found the transition to life in Rwanda to be very smooth, given just a couple of bumps in the road.
Exactly two weeks in to my Fellowship at Vision Finance Company (VFC) in Kigali, Rwanda, one baggage loss and one hospital visit later, I have settled in to life here in Rwanda. Since arriving, my mind has been flooded with questions and realizations about this new culture. In fact, I am sure that this constant thinking has been the factor that led to my lack of sleep at night, and my resulting illness! But it’s true… my mind is going a mile-a-minute just fascinated with this place and its infinite complexities— political, cultural, social… and commercial.
The commercial sector is very different here. Entrepreneurship seems to be taking off, but in some ways it still appears to be a new concept. Allow me to illustrate…
Lunch-time. It’s the only time of day when I’m really ready to spend the cash that I have. I am hungry! So I step outside, in very much an up-and-coming business district (Muhima), and walk for 40 minutes in either direction… no café, no brochette stand (basically kabob), and no restaurant to be found. That day, my money got me nowhere.
If some guy set up a brochette stand in this neighbourhood, he could be a gazillionaire, and he’d have a monopoly He could charge whatever he wanted because there are hundreds of hungry business-people around ready to spend.
This is a story that continues to repeat itself. It is one of my most major realizations about Rwanda is the amount of opportunity for entrepreneurship. I suppose one could look at it as a lack of entrepreneurship, too. I think that the real case is that the combination of the trauma of the past, and general lack of good market conditions (e.g. access to capital) have meant a bleak-looking marketplace for aspiring entrepreneurs here. But the micro-banking world appears to be addressing this. The opportunity for start-ups is tremendous here, and organizations like Vision Finance Co. have already begun to seize it, providing loans for folks who want to develop Rwanda by developing their own small business… (Please read the excellent Financial Times article by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, as he discusses the importance of entrepreneurship.)
This is why I believe in microfinance and the role it plays in the development of economies. I believe that the first person to open a brochette stand in Muhima will play a role in developing Rwanda. I believe that when Vision Finance Co. gives her a first loan to buy the grill, microfinance is playing a role in developing Rwanda. Finally the businesspeople in Muhima will get to eat lunch! Both parties would be a lot better off.
If you have not already made a loan through the Kiva website, please follow the link to see the entrepreneur you can help out today!/>