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22 August 2017 , 11:46 am

Forward looking: Beyond the elections of Rwanda & Kenya

Insights from a noted business journalist at CNBC George Ndirangu

Elections in Sub-Sahara Africa bear unfortunate traits; either too easy to win, or so difficult to settle, this often puts businesses at a halt due to the uncertainty. Two major elections have happened in the East African region in the last couple of weeks: One in Rwanda, where the incumbent, Paul Kagame, won with a decisive 98 per cent, and; the just concluded Kenyan general elections, where the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta also won with 54.47%.

For a clearer understanding on business in Rwanda AND Kenya during this election period, we had a chat with renowned business journalist George Ndirangu who has worked and experienced the election seasons in both countries.

George Ndirangu, Presenter and Producer at CNBC Africa

George Ndirangu is a Presenter and Producer at CNBC Africa. He is a Bsc. Actuarial Science holder, and a renowned journalist passionate about finance and ICT. George has conducted interviews from across the world, recent ones being with eight Heads of State at the Transform

Africa Summit; with President of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, Philanthropist Howard Buffett, Ministers from different countries, and numerous industry players.

George conducts daily live shows on the business channel analyzing issues across East Africa, and produces a bi-monthly show called “Doing Business in Rwanda” analyzing progress in Rwanda sector by sector. He has worked with several organizations in both fields: Media and Finance, and hosted numerous sessions for United Nations, UNDP, UNECA, USAID, telco MTN, Marriott, Ministry of Youth & ICT, Ministry of Agriculture, African Securities Exchanges Conference, Rwanda Development Board, among others, as well as touring and understanding different countries on the continent.

George Ndirangu with H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius

How long have you been working in Rwanda and where were you before?

I’ve been in Rwanda for five years, before that I was in Kenya, interning at the NHIF, and Housing Finance then worked at the Ministry of Housing in the Accounting Department.

What are your observations on the business environment in Rwanda in comparison to Kenya?

We have to understand that where Rwanda is now, they have built in just the last 23 years, whereas Kenya has had decades more of growth and stabilizing. Nairobi’s stock exchange for example, was established in 1954, Rwanda’s stock exchange, incorporated in 2005, so they’ve had 12 years to invite IPOs, play catch up with ETF, and build on investor appetite. It’s been a journey. Businessmen have expressed almost similar sentiments regarding the governance in Rwanda being the most exemplary in East and Central Africa, while Kenya remains the most advanced. In that sense there’s a lot of best practices to be shared between both countries. 

This year, 2017, being an election year in Rwanda AND Kenya, how has business outlook been?

Barely a month after elections in Kenya, inflation fell in Kenya and Uganda, a positive note even when we’ve seen hints of capital flight and most businessmen adopting a “wait and see” attitude before injecting any more capital. The mood in Rwanda has been interesting, I was not around for the last election, but this time, two more candidates joined the Presidential race, so it’s been interesting hearing people’s thoughts on democracy and the future of the country. There have been massive campaigns, with the incumbent garnering thousands and tens of thousands at his rallies, a sure sign of the public support that will follow in the event of him picking up another term.

As a notable business journalist, who has been in the industry for a while, what have been your biggest learnings?

That we missed all the other industrial revolutions, and the entire continent and a bulk of industry leaders are spending sleepless nights making sure we catch up, and not miss the subsequent revolutions. As a journalist, it’s imperative that we keep our ears and eyes on ground, otherwise we’ll miss it all.

How do you think East Africa has advanced in the technology & travel sector over the years?

The most evident around us has been the investment around technology and travel. In tech, for Rwanda, the country boasts of 4G penetration soon to cover the entire country. As of March

2017, we had 97 live 4G networks in 39 countries across Sub Saharan Africa. That is huge given the fact that this number is not directly linked to the number of smartphones (much lower), it’s a sure sign that the infrastructure is moving in place, in anticipation of heavy demand. We’re also seeing a lot of movement from rudimentary (so to speak) viewership of news and entertainments from the regular DSTV, Star Times platforms to more “Pay to watch” platforms like Netflix, Zuku, Hulu and more. We now consider Kenya the region’s Silicon Valley, possibly the continent’s!

For travel, it’s also evident both online and offline. Daily we receive updates on new purchases of fleet, or a revamped booking site, or a voucher campaign for travelers to win free flights. It’s constant growth. In Rwanda for example, there has been ongoing conversation on the new airport in Bugesera (Eastern Rwanda). For one to invest $700 million, you can bet the country is serious about being the nerve center for business, travel and shipping in the region.

In terms of tourism and travel, anything noteworthy the two countries are doing?

In addition to huge investments in terms of travel technology, Kenya has invited a host of investors, pulling with it, large tourist numbers. Just last month, we saw 14,029 tourists from China by the end of April this year, up from 10,407 in the same period last year. With Jack Ma’s visit, we should see much higher numbers by the end of this year. In Rwanda, the country recently announced that they were considering turning the country into a high end tourism destination, so that’s something tour operators are lining up their business models in anticipation for.

Any recommendations?

Absolutely! Most people have a misconception of Kenya, and an even more misguided misconception of Rwanda. Visit the two countries. I can bet, 100% that what you’ve heard or seen is a tiny fraction of the bigger picture.

How do you stay updated on tech AND travel industry news?

For tech news, it’s mostly “techCrunch”, and “CultofMac”. For updates on Travel: BBC Travel, The SavvyBackpacker and TravelNoire.

 

 

 

 

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This post was written by Amadeus Africa Team

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