The stage on which Rwanda will be hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF-Africa) this week has been under construction from the moment the country was announced host, sometime last year; now all is set for the show, but what does Kigali have in store for the thousands of delegates that will be summiting here?
Plenty, I say.
True, this is the World Economic Forum on Africa but it is also pretty much going to be a forum about Rwanda and its enigmatic story of renaissance from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The timing is opportune. On arrival, visitors will, without a doubt, be captivated by a clean and beautifully organised city and, on driving to town, closer to the WEF-Africa venue, they will also notice the numerous billboards about the 22nd Genocide commemoration gracing the city.
Very symbolic, these billboards; they are a reminder that the beauty and glamour about the new Rwanda is not as old; an inspirational story whose first line was written just over a couple of decades ago; a story whose authors, the 12.4 million Rwandans, are still working on to perfect.
Majority of the delegates will probably be here for their very first time and most of them will have done wide reading and literature review about Rwanda, in preparation for their trips.
When they finally land here, it will be a validation period of everything they’ve heard and read about the country. Most are likely to have come across the moniker, ‘country of a thousand hills.’
The aerial view will be the best way to validate that geographical fact and those with seats by the windows will see these hills as they descend for landing at the Kigali International Airport.
When the meeting finally gets underway, on Wednesday, delegates will probably be awestruck to meet youthful ladies and gentlemen introducing themselves as senior government officials of the Government of Rwandan.
Youthful people in leadership, is the official signature of the new Rwanda, a country where at least 80 per cent of its people are below 40 years of age.
Indeed, the country’s fast growth over the past two decades has in many ways benefited from the energy and speed with which its young people in leadership execute their work.
But, ultimately, WEF-Africa is not going to be entirely about meetings. Delegates are going to be eager to feed their curiosity about Rwandans and the opportunities that their country has to offer to prospective investors.
Every Rwandan, this week, is going to have an opportunity to be a marketing agent of their country, an opportunity to be an ambassador, an opportunity to be a spokesperson.
The biggest responsibility, however, is with actors in Rwanda’s private sector, especially those in the hospitality industry; in the Government of Rwanda, the private sector has its biggest marketing agent, always on the lookout for opportunities that bring business to local enterprises.
With thousands of visitors coming to town this week, competition will be rendered almost irrelevant as demand for rooms and other services surge for the duration of the meetings; every hotel worth its name is expected to at least host some WEF-Africa related guests.
But booking these guests into hotel rooms will just be the beginning of the story; how our local hoteliers treat these guests will be the most important thing for Rwanda.
Great room and restaurant service courtesy of excellent customer care will win hearts and endear guests to Rwandan hospitality and leave beautiful memories that will forever live with them; some might even choose to extend their stay or leave with plans to return.
Most of all, great customer service will write a beautiful story about Rwanda in the minds of WEF-Africa delegates, a story they will return to their respective countries to tell, in the process becoming voluntary ambassadors of the country.
In 2014, Rwandans did a good job during the African Development Bank Annual Meetings that took place here; visitors loved the orderliness, friendliness and seamless facilitation.
But in hosting WEF-Africa, Rwanda faces the challenge of either maintaining or surpassing the very high standard that the country has set at previous high profile summits that it has previously hosted.
If our service industry puts up a great show of exquisite customer service and hospitality, they will have paid the government a befitting commission for its endless efforts of always attracting opportunities that bring business for local enterprises. So, go for it!
As for WEF-Africa delegates, welcome to Rwanda; feel at home in the country of a thousand hills.
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