Technologies Making Humankind More Equitable

Technology use to improve farming techniques has existed since the beginning of the technological revolution itself. Mapping of farms, specifically, to advance farmer knowledge and maximize yields has occurred since 1970 when satellites began processing weather data. Generally, only the most developed countries and large-scale farmers have access to this advanced technology. Barriers still exist in developing countries where smallholder farmers are unable to capture the value of technology due to deficiency of plot allocation, underdeveloped information networks, and overall lack of expertise in management of the tools. The impacts, however, can be significant. Drone technology provides an efficient means of increasing information available to farmers who do not have access to these metrics otherwise – the technology can assess for crop deficiencies and optimal harvesting times. Rwanda is a primarily agrarian economy, and increasing yields not only benefits the farmers but the overall economy. This is not only good for smallholder farmers but for the GDP of the country and its overall growth rate as well.

AgriLift infographicAgriLift is an agricultural technology company that uses drones to fly over farms and capture data. It then uses a web-based platform to analyze the data for diseases, crop growth and meteorological information. The captured information is sent back to farmers; allowing them to improve their techniques, maximize their resources and eventually their yields as well. Drone technology reduces the costs usually associated with constant crop monitoring, where satellite technology is expensive and often vulnerable to cloud coverage, and it can benefit people throughout the value chain, from farmers to processors, traders, input dealers, financial service providers and government.

Drone use in Rwanda has been highly reported on in the context of aiding delivery of essential medication to rural areas. Laws in Rwanda are highly favorable to the use of drones across all sectors. In the case of agriculture, the specific type of drone is not as important as how the information is processed and integrated into a farmer’s techniques. When considering agriculture development in Rwanda and East Africa, on the ground and implementable solutions that solve for an actual need and can be efficient in the long-term are crucial considerations. By simplifying the presentation of data and making it easily accessible, we are working to account for many of the problems that face development projects.

Countries with structural challenges are often the ones best equipped to take advantage of technological innovations coming out of the developed world. In Rwanda, the newest and most innovative technologies are being used to benefit the ones that would not have had access to it otherwise. AgriLift is using drone technology to impact the quality of life of those in the most rural areas. With investment in the private sector, Rwanda’s GDP is growing at a rate higher than developed economies. With a focus on using innovative technology to reach the country’s most in need, there is potential to become a middle-income country in the near term.

Artificial Intelligence and use of technology will play a role in changing and defining new ways to work and interact. There are countless applications of the technological revolution in the developing world – sustainable and efficient means of development. Rwanda is ready to reap the benefits of the technological revolution, and to implement the use of technology into its everyday life to create long-term sustainable changes that impact the lives of everyone.

Relaunching in 2017

2016 Team Photo

As our company faces a new and exciting period of growth, we are relaunching our website and blog to showcase this work, and to more broadly highlight economic development and entrepreneurship in Rwanda and East Africa. At this moment in time, development in Africa and its perception on a global scale is shifting. We are turning away from tradition and moving toward practical implementation and outcome-driven plans. In Rwanda, private sector development has been at the forefront of sustainable economic growth. Returns to shareholders are the definition of business success in the global economy. While our company aligns itself with this goal, we feel there are other equally important milestones to be met.

Karisimbi Business Partners is a socially motivated consulting and investment firm with the mission to alleviate poverty one business at a time. The work we do and sectors we cover are broad, but we have a deep knowledge of Rwanda’s economic development and have been closely involved in its growth over time. We advise government and private sector clients; we invest in companies like Asili Natural Oils, AgriLift, and Acacia Accounting, and we are business operators and managers for clients such as Abahizi Rwanda, a fashion products manufacturer supplying the Kate Spade On Purpose line. As a firm, we are more than just business advisors; we are owners, who live and work in East Africa, building businesses, involved in the day-to-day.

We started this firm with the mission of alleviating poverty through job creation. In the world of Impact Investing, there is a belief that Africa is the “next big market.” We believe there are other important milestones beyond accessing this growing market. While turning profit is of course proof that a business is viable, the real need in Rwanda and throughout the region is job creation. The discipline of a commercial mindset, coupled with intentionally valuing the “other” above the “self,” motivates our work. Yes, being part of Africa’s rise is strategic thinking for doing business, but changing people is strategic thinking for doing life, and that happens in the day-to-day, on-the-ground, shoulder-to-shoulder partnering with those same people.

The purpose of this relaunch is not only to renew our commitment to these goals, but also to share more broadly with the community of economic development professionals. Whether through the private sector trying to fill a need in an untapped market, or at an NGO managing a complex web of relief and development objectives, we all get out of the bed in the morning because we want to “change the world,” and that starts with thinking honestly about how are valuing the other ahead of ourselves.

For more information about Karisimbi Business Partners, please contact Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Dano Jukanovich: dano@karisimbipartners.com

They Must Be Crazy

The previous land owner says it felt as if he left the village to go to Kigali one day and came back the next to see his 40 HeAsili Plantationctares had been cleared. “Every day it looks like there is an army of ants crawling all over the land clearing it and preparing it.” He can’t believe that Denys and Theo and Kazungu and Phoebe and Justine are not the owners of the business. “Why would they work so hard if they are not the owners? These guys must be crazy,” he says.

Seedlings
Within weeks of acquiring the land, the Asili Natural Oils team had entirely cleared it and planted 38,000 trees. Two months later, the trees have become seedlings.

I know why these “crazy” guys and gals work so hard. It is because they believe. They believe the company will be successful. They believe they are building something that will last. The believe their leaders care for them.

They believe they will grow and learn and gain opportunity from the experience. They believe in themselves and their colleagues. They believe in Rwanda and its potential to build lives and communities and futures. They believe in Jesus – they walk around the plantation praying for their trees to grow, for the company to be profitable and to create jobs for more people.

Refugees clearing land and gathering firewood.
Refugees clearing land and gathering firewood.
Refugee putting ash around seedlings to repel bugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully they inspire you to be crazy too.

Keeping Meetings On Track

There’s nothing more frustrating than a meeting that goes on and on and on. In Rwanda, whether in government or private sector offices, Monday mornings are dedicated to management meetings.

Often, you call senior officers in both public and private institutions and are met with the standard ring tone that continues for eternity. Inevitably, the senior officer will send you text message telling you that, once again, they are held up in a meeting. When you call three hours later, you receive the same response. This begs us to ask the question, how can meetings be brief, productive and well-structured? How can management meetings stay on track?

It is the chairperson’s job to make sure meeting participants stay focused and refrain from the unending monologues that are quite common here in Rwanda. But how can you keep people focused without being dictatorial or suffocating creativity? Here are a few tips of how to make meetings productive and on track:

Set the meeting’s intention in advance: what exactly do you want to accomplish?

“Organizations are moving faster and faster these days and few managers have time to think through their meetings in advance,” says Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist and author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams.

As Chairperson, ensure that the agenda and materials to be discussed are sent to the meeting participants before the meeting, so that participants know what will be discussed. You can head off a lot of problems by stating the reason for getting together right up front.

The participants

Ensure that the meeting is attended only by those who need to be present. If there are too many participants in the meeting room, they will not be attentive, and you risk losing control of the agenda.

Role of the chairperson

As chairperson, you have to walk your talk. Ensure you are on time. Welcome remarks should be clear and precise. State the purpose of the meeting. Follow the Agenda; you should have firm control – clear and decisive authority, stick to the agreed order of business. Guide participation – involve everyone and keep the meeting moving forward.

Manage the meeting participants and make careful transitions

As chairperson, you should be an impartial arbiter. Listen to others first and speak last. Control controversy or problematic attendees and intervene as necessary. Ensure there is a smooth transition and that the participants have finished one agenda item before moving to another. We have seen meetings where the chairperson moves from agenda items when he or she is ready without consideration of whether the meeting participants are following. “Typically leaders go from topic to topic, moving ahead when they’re ready to,” says Schwarz. “But people don’t always move with you and they may get stuck in the past.” Before you transition from one agenda item to another, ask if everyone is finished with the current topic. “You need to give people enough air time,” says Pozen. This will help keep the conversation focused.

Meeting closure

As chairperson, ensure that the meeting ends on the right note to set the stage for work to continue. Most often we have seen meetings drag on so many hours and suddenly be brought to an abrupt end by the chairperson or have him or her leave the meeting before it ends. As chairperson, before meeting closure, ensure that resolutions are reached, identify next steps, assign roles and responsibility and define timelines for when action points should be acted upon. This ensures accountability and avoids meeting participants saying they were not part of the resolutions taken during the meeting.

KBP thrilled to help Waka Waka “share the sun” in Rwanda

Karisimbi Partners’ client, Off Grid Solutions (OGS), rolled out its solar-powered flashlight and mobile phone charger with an innovative pricing scheme in the last quarter of 2014. Karisimbi Partners was integral in the success of this company, and has been excited to see the company hit 50% of its target goal in just 3 months. Read more about the product and about KBP’s role in the project in our recently published case study.

New Off Grid Solution Introduced to Rwandan Market

The Virtual Grid, a low cost, innovative solar powered lighting and mobile charging unit, and the brain child of OGS, has become quite popular with rural households  in Rwanda through  its cheap pre-paid scratch card payment model.

Executive Summary

OGS, also known as Off Grid Solutions, is aWaka Waka Logo leading Dutch social enterprise that develops affordable and socially adaptable solar powered lighting solutions for rural based communities across the world. OGS recently developed the Virtual Grid, a low cost innovative solar powered lantern with mobile phone charging capabilities  that can be  paid off easily through weekly pay-as-you-go service installments of less than a $1. OGS engaged  Karisimbi Partners to aid them in the planning and roll-out phases of this new product in Rwanda.

Challenges

Due to the following factors, OGS faced a few key challenges in the roll-out of the Virtual Grid:

  1. On average, rural households earn less than USD 2/day, and therefore cannot afford to pay the high  upfront cost incurred by OGS  in the production of  the Virtual Grid
  2. Inexpensive  battery-powered lanterns are available in the market and  are especially  popular in rural communities, creating fierce competition for OGS
  3. Most rural households can  easily charge their mobile phones in city centers a few kilometers away at a cost of only 50 cents per week, making the case for the Virtual Grid  quite difficult
  4. More and more city centers in rural areas are connecting to the grid, increasing the supply of inexpensive  battery-powered substitutes

WakaPic

Services Provided by Karisimbi Partners

As an international investor new to Rwanda, OGS was looking to launch a pilot in the country to test the technology and uptake of the service by targeting 9000 households. Karisimbi Partners was engaged to carry out a feasibility study and devise a strategic pricing, marketing and implementation plan for the company to successfully launch the pilot.

Results and Future Prospects

Within three short weeks, Karisimbi Business Partners was able to provide OGS with key recommendations on locations for the pilot study, strategic entry price levels and a distribution model that was critical in enabling the client to meet 50% of it’s target goal in just 3 months. After completion of the planning phase, Karisimbi Partners helped the client identify and train 75 dealers, leading to the sales of over 18,000 scratchcards. OGS is now currently established in the country as WakaWaka Rwanda and is investing in a scale up of its operations as part of its vision to provide sustainable, socially adaptable and affordable lighting and charging solutions to rural based communities.

The Introduction of New Products at Asili

 

ANO logo

Asili Natural Oils is a supplier of natural ingredients to customers in the personal care and specialty oil industries around the world. Asili Natural Oils is a social-impact business occupying a critical link in the supply chain – connecting hundreds of small-holder farmers to high value international markets. Asili is committed to serving customers with professionalism and integrity, thereby ensuring benefits for farmers, customers, and employees.

Situation

In 2012, Karisimbi Partners established Asili Natural Oils with two socially motivated  British investors looking to set up a sustainable social-impact business. The business was born out of a desire to find a private sector solution for a large number of Rwandan farmers who were convinced by well-meaning organizations to plant Moringa trees in the early 2000’s.

Continue reading The Introduction of New Products at Asili

Karisimbi Partners re-opens Karisimbi Fellows Program for recent graduates

Rwandan-based consulting & investment firm Karisimbi Partners is proud to announce a 2015 opening in our Karisimbi Fellows program. After experiencing great success and satisfaction with our 2014 Fellows, KBP is excited to provide yet another opportunity for professionals who have recently completed an undergraduate or graduate degree in business administration or a related field to get hands on experience partnering with businesses in the developing world. Karisimbi Fellows have the unique opportunity to work directly with management teams and other stakeholders to increase capacity and effectiveness and in so doing to assist in the long term development of the communities in which those businesses operate. The Karisimbi Fellow is provided a unique platform to assist in developing the private sector through the strong reputation and partnerships built by Karisimbi Partners over years of operating in East Africa.

Rolling start dates for selected candidates begin August 1 2015. Housing and business-related expenses will be covered by Karisimbi Partners and a stipend will also be provided to the Fellow to offset some costs of living.

Click Here to download the Program Description for more detail and instructions in submitting an application for consideration.