Business Leaders make a Difference

I was driving home last night and heard a brief interview with Jack Hanna on the radio. That’s right the wild animal guy talking about the Hope for Rwanda 2010 Gala being held here in Denver tonight.  Jack reminded us of where this country has been, and the incredible strides it has made to become 2009’s Top Business Reformer according to the World Bank’s “Doing Business report”.

A brief refresher; in 1994 there was another uprising and conflict in Rwanda and between 800,000 and 1.0 million people were killed in 100 days. That represented about one tenth of the population.

The new President Paul Kagame set about with an audacious goal to transform the country into a stable, free market economy and to lift his people from poverty and build a sustainable economy and political climate.

Through connections from two financial leaders in Chicago Joe Ritchie and Dan Cooper, business and world leaders were introduced to Rwanda. As a result, today, companies like Costco, Google and Starbucks have made big investments in business in Rwanda. Rwanda also has infrastructure investments in place, building a Telco, a railroad and hospitals and schools.

–    The Average income has tripled since the genocide.
–    In 2009, Rwanda joined the Commonwealth of Nations the second country without British colonial ties to do so.
–    Women Serve in its Parliament

How does this happen?

–    Thank you Joe Ritchie and Dan Cooper for noticing and shining a light in a place most of the world would rather forget.
–    Thank you to business leaders from Costco, Google, Starbucks and Burlington Northern for making an investment.
–    Companies from around the world, China, Canada, Britain, and Germany are all creating companies and wealth in Rwanda.
–    Rwandans are now making money reinvesting in their communities and building wealth that has the potential to sustain.

Rwanda has the potential to serve as a role model on a continent that has seen war and corruption dim the hopes of so many.

As business leaders, we have the ability to change the world and people’s lives in ways great and small. We spend half of our waking life working in business, we interact daily with business and business creates the future every day.

We can step back as we are making our strategic plans for the year and ask ourselves, “where can I invest to make a difference; in my employees, in my community, in my suppliers, or in a part of the world that shows potential like Rwanda?

The reality is we make a difference each and every day. The question is what difference do you want to make?

If you are interested in Rwanda the gala that I heard about is raising funds to build a school fully equipped with computers, books and the tools to deliver a great education. Their website is

When I heard about the story I had to do some research for myself and went to Wikipedia, Fast Company and Fortune, the links are below.

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