Doing Business in Rwanda

Doing Business in Rwanda

Hmm… this might not be the wisest of titles for a post given that I’m in Rwanda on a tourist visa and that the Rwandan government is very internet savvy. But… what the hell! This is such a safe country, this can be my way of living life on the edge!

So I’ve got my little Kigali website that is gaining in popularity with expats and locals alike. The monetising model for the site is a lot different from my other sites given the nature of business in Africa and how far along things with the internet are here. So many businesses don’t have websites yet, so even if they did want to advertise, I’d have nothing to link to. Few businesses know about Google Adwords so that makes earning through Adsense here impossible. I’ve never come across a business here with an affiliate program, so that’s out too. Plus businesses that do have websites aren’t really up on the whole SEO thing, so I’m not going to get emails from people who want to game Google.

So… things are done differently here and I’m getting a good look at it now as I’ve just completed my first two advertising deals for the site. The first deal was with two Sudanese guys who are young, but very established businessmen. They run a couple of gyms, have something to do with farming, and now they’re starting a web empire and going for it in a big way. They have 15 staff members and already get 10,000 people a day having only been in operation for three weeks. Their site, Kigali Konnect, is aiming to be a classifieds and business directory site aimed at everyone in Rwanda (it’s in Kinyarwanda, French and English) and they wanted to advertise on my site to help them reach the expats here. The ad deal was with Uzaze Directory which is seeking to bring East African businesses together in one place.

It was a really interesting meeting and I was excited to see that they have a similar vision for what the future of websites in this part of the world could hold. They’re aiming to make similar sites for Cairo, Kampala and Khartoum and see this market as very new. They realise that getting in now is a big advantage and agree with me that people who overlook Africa for business opportunities are missing out. They’re interested in possibly partnering up in some way down the road and they’d be very interesting to work with.

My second meeting was this morning with a Rwandan woman who is in the early days of starting up a recruitment agency for nannies, housekeepers and guards. She does the training, security checks and all that fun stuff and people looking for these services get in touch with her to find staff. Given that my site is aimed at expats and that it will often be found by new arrivals, I think it’ll be a good place for her to advertise.

I had to educate her a bit on the standard banner ad sizes and I offered to, for a small fee, create a suitable ad for her. She was very impressed with my site and kept saying things like ‘You are doing a great thing!’ and was very happy to get my advice on what her ad should look like and even happier when I offered to help her redesign it. I also suggested she post to my forum for free and offered to send her some interview questions so that I can feature her, and her business, on my website in an article. I feel like she left the meeting very happy. Not bad considering she was very surprised to find out I was a woman! She was expecting to be meeting a man. I guess ‘Kirsty’ isn’t a common name in Rwanda…

I do all of my business by email however I don’t think this sort of thing will fly in Rwanda. But these face-to-face meetings have been really fun and I think creating relationships is very important here. I firmly believe that there is so much opportunity here and in East Africa in general (I have a friend out in West Africa who says the same thing) and I’m really excited to being getting into the website scene at an early state. I’ve got another exciting partnership blooming for my Kampala site idea, so my mini Africa web empire could be expanding.

I like the personal nature of business here (at least what I’ve found so far) and the importance of a handshake and a meeting. It’s nice and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things unfold over the next few months!