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.

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.

Kate Spade & Company Launches New Trade-Based Initiative in Rwanda

For the last 12 months, Karisimbi Buiness Partners has been working with Kate Spade & Company, the renowned fashion brand whose popularity has exploded over the last few years. Known for their high quality handbags, Kate Spade & Company has expanded to bring a range of apparel, fashion accessories and home products to their offering.

As a company committed to expanding their corporate social responsibility impact, Kate Spade & Co identified Rwanda as the springboard for the on purpose initiative. Through this for-profit initiative, Kate Spade & Company worked with Karisimbi Business Partners to employ over 120 local artisans in Masoro, Rwanda to help establish a new business as a profitable supplier to kate spade new york, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade.

Unlike traditional non-profit organizations or donation-based programs, KBP assisted Kate Spade & Company to create on purpose with the goal of helping empower the village of Masoro to become more economically stable. A team of Karisimbi staff dedicated 100% to the project worked closely with these artisans to provide technical skills and training in financial literacy to help them evolve their existing association into a licensed business entity. The company offers its employees a fair salary, benefits including vacation time and maternity leave, health care and national social security benefits. Karisimbi also ensured that Kate Spade & Company’s compliance and labor standards were me to ensure compliance with global standards for working conditions.

This CSR project stands out as the products produced in Rwanda for the limited-edition on purpose collection are designed to fit seamlessly into Kate Spade & Company’s existing collections and the artisans adhere to the same design and manufacturing guidelines the Company applies to all of its products. on purpose items include kate spade new york handbags, scarves and jewelry, Kate Spade Saturday jewelry and home items and Jack Spade totes, bracelets and pocket squares.

You can see the results for yourself: The limited-edition items will be available in select kate spade new york, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade stores and on each brand’s website beginning May 5, 2014.

Meanwhile, the Karisimbi Team will remain on the ground to support the growth and development of this exciting initiative.

In a rush to develop, Rwanda can’t forget the other 80%

The Rwandan Government believes that the service sector will define the country’s future development. Still, agriculture remains the backbone of the economy. According to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), it accounts for about a third of Rwanda’s GDP and generates approximately 70% of the country’s export revenue. A little less than 80% of the population is employed in agriculture, constituting the main source of income for rural households, especially for women.

Accepting this reality is crucial, and any plan for future development must fully consider the 80%. Both the public sector and private sector must take steps to transform agriculture and ensure that Rwanda’s rural population reaps the many benefits of modernization. With this in mind, Karisimbi Business Partners is currently engaged in the early stages of a 5 year 8 million EUR public-private-partnership (PPP), entitled “Sugar: Make it Work.” The project brings needed investment to the sugar cane sector with financing from the Dutch Government and Rwanda’s sole sugar processor, Kabuye Sugar Works (KSW), with additional participation from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

Currently, sugar cane farmers, as well as KSW, face a multitude of challenges. A shortage of suitable land available for sugarcane agriculture restricts production. Severe flooding and deficient water drainage/irrigation constrains optimal yields on existing land, forcing Rwanda to import much of its sugar and leaving consumers highly dependent on volatile prices. With a growing population and increasing consumer expenditure, both domestically and regionally, Rwanda risks missing a crucial opportunity to grow a local industry with great potential.

The “Sugar: Make it Work” PPP is making critical investments in water management infrastructure in order to reduce flooding so that KSW and outgrower farmers can make the most of available marshland. Within the next decade, through improved water management and the introduction of remote sensing technology, local production of sugar should nearly double. This could lead to an increase in outgrower and KSW estate employment by approximately 41%, as well as add new highly skilled agro-IT service jobs in the sugar cane sector. With improved capacity to track and monitor crops, KSW and outgrower farmers will be in a better position to predict sugar cane yields, respond to disease outbreaks and optimize the harvesting and transport of crops. Additionally, the project will increase technical and business training for outgrower farmers, improving their participation in the value chain.
Without doubt, the development of Rwanda’s service sector will define its path towards greater economic, social and political development.

Diversification towards a knowledge-based economy would set Rwanda apart from other countries in the region and the African continent as a whole. The development of a service-based economy can create new jobs, boost labor productivity and allow the country to transcend its limitations, such as a lack of mineral resources, small population and landlocked geography.

We recognize this great potential, but the agricultural sector cannot be ignored. Opportunities abound to increase production, generate greater employment, introduce new technologies and improve rural livelihoods in general. We’re excited by projects like Sugar: Make it Work because it brings together public and private sector actors to tackle some of the most pressing problems faced by farmers in Rwanda. Taking large steps to transform a country like Rwanda is admirable and even offers hope to other countries on the continent. Indeed, Rwanda should be ambitious and chart its own path towards development. But it should do so keeping that 80% in mind.

Karisimbi Partners speaks at Cracking the Nut Africa

Cracking the Nut Africa was held this past week at the Serena Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. The conference brought together Africa-focused investors, entrepreneurs, development workers and government officials to explore innovative approaches to improving rural livelihoods and food security by partnering with the private sector.

Hunter Thompson, Director of Karisimbi Business Partners, and Jon Porter, Lead Investment Manager of Karisimbi Capital Partners led attendees through a presentation entitled “Profiling Investors for East African Investment Opportunities” during one of the conferences breakout sessions. The presentation focused on identifying which characteristics were typical of investors who were more likely to move forward with an actual investment in a target geography. If investment attractors were able to identify these characteristics early on – Karisimbi Partners asserted – then it could be determined relatively quickly which investors to deploy scare resource toward.

Using Rwanda as an example and drawing from five years of experience working with investors, the pair highlighted the following as being characteristics of investors who are more likely to consummate deals in Rwanda.

  • Investing with “eyes wide open” – not uninformed of the specific challenges faced in Rwanda
  • Comfortable with incomplete information – able to move forward despite potential lack of good data
  • Actively looking for deals – not waiting for deals to be brought to them
  • Able to operate with limited practical government or donor support – happy to have it, but not an essential part of the business model
  • Country specific commitment and/or social motivation – essential in light of the many significant country-specific challenges
  • Commitment to local presence and/or active involvement – not a passive investor or limited partner
  • Undefined exit strategy / extended time horizon – willing to be involved 5-10 years and beyond
  • Flexible and appropriate investment criteria – ticket size and other criteria that are well-suited to many potential deals in the target geography

The presentation was followed by a panel comprised of top managers from several of the largest agribusiness investments in Rwanda in the past five years who discussed which characteristics highlighted in the presentation described their own investors and why they were important.

Karisimbi Partners wants to extend a special thanks to the panelists who added a level of depth and real-world examples to the presentation – Gilbert Gatali of KZ Noir, Matt Smith of Rwanda Trading Company, Claude Mansell of MINIMEX Group and Nathan van Dusen of Carana Corporation.

Asili Natural Oils launches Green Coffee Oil product for cosmetics

Asili Natural Oils, a portfolio company of Karisimbi Capital Partners, recently launched a new cosmetic ingredient product for personal care formulators – Green Coffee Oil.

The oil is cold-pressed from fresh green coffee beans (coffea arabica) sourced from small-scale Rwandan coffee farmers. Rwanda – known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills” – boasts the ideal soil, elevation and climate for growing some of the world’s finest coffee, translating into a high quality oil with excellent emollient properties in cosmetic applications.

Green Coffee Oil is rich in phytosterols that promote excellent moisture retention, quick penetration and good adherence within cosmetic applications. It is also exceptionally high in its composition of essential fatty acids.

Email sales@asilioils.com for more product information and to request a quotation. Visit www.asilioils.com to learn more about Asili Natural Oils and the company’s other products including its flagship Cold-Pressed Moringa Oil.

Karisimbi Partners launches Karisimbi Fellows Program for recent graduates

Rwandan-based consulting and investment firm Karisimbi Partners is proud to announce the creation of the Karisimbi Fellows program. The Fellows program is intended to provide opportunities 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 will have the unique opportunity to work directly with management teams and other stakeholders in Rwanda and the East African region 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 Fall 2013. 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.