The glamorous world of private jets is no longer the domain of the super-rich. Private aviation is set to soar in Africa as business keeps checking in.
Well-heeled women glide in and out of an opulent mansion in a leafy suburb in Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile.
The champagne-colored granite of the stairway meets the elegant tips of their Manolo Blahnik stilettos.
This is a medical aesthetic and holistic wellness center called Anti-Aging Art in the posh suburb in Johannesburg.
It is a home-turned-medical center belonging to Reza Mia, a doctor and co-owner of the clinic patronized by the rich and famous. Mia also happens to design jets, as the founder and CEO of Pegasus Universal Aerospace, an aviation company based in South Africa with the sole purpose of creating innovative aviation solutions.
Between surgical facelifts and building sophisticated jets, Mia finally makes time for an interview at 5PM on a Friday afternoon.
Dressed in navy blue scrubs, he sits on a luxurious leather sofa as he tells FORBES AFRICA about his connection with aviation.
Mia is currently designing a vertical take-off jet that he says will add to the convenience of private travel.
The aesthetic surgeon has been developing the Pegasus One Vertical Business Jet (VBJ1) since 2012, which he says will be completed in three years.
It’s an attempt to revolutionize luxury air travel in South Africa.
“It can land and take off like a helicopter anywhere a helicopter could, in fact more places because it doesn’t have a spinning rotor blade and it is quieter especially for built-up areas and neighborhoods. It can accelerate and fly at the speed of a business jet which is almost 800km/h so that is about four times the speed of a helicopter,” he says.
Cool-air fan technology allows the jet to take off and land anywhere, he adds, which means it’s less hassle for customers.
Privacy and convenience count as currency in this business.
Business aviation company, ExecuJet Aviation, currently operates and manages four bases for private jets in Africa.
The Johannesburg base is located at Lanseria International Airport, about an hour’s drive from the city.
The flashy cars in the parking lot speak about the kind of travelers taking off from here.
Staff meander in and out of the private terminal on this busy day, yet there is no millionaire in sight in an expensive Armani suit jetting off for his next business trip.
You never see them, they are that discreet about client privacy.
On a global scale, the company manages and operates about 260 aircraft and is also in Kenya and Nigeria, with the newest entrant in Seychelles.
With almost three decades in the aviation industry, the company has kept a close watch on the rising market of business aviation in Africa.
Stationed on the apron is a white Bombardier Challenger 300 worth about $26 million.
The nine-seater aircraft boasts a bathroom and features glossy cherry-wood surfaces.
This gloss is all-pervasive and there is not a speck of dust in sight.
The soft, plush carpet is a shade lighter than the grey leather seating decked with comfy cushions that enhance the elegance.
ExecuJet’s Africa Vice President, Gavin Kiggen, says despite the demand and increase for private travel on the continent, perceptions of the industry can be misleading from both a business and client perspective.
“The margins are extremely low and the competition is very strong because you have new entrants who are trying to get market share.
“The perception is that it’s lucrative because of the kinds of tools and services we offer but it is a tough industry to be involved in,” he says.
As a developing region, Africa needs to prioritize infrastructure while attracting sales to uphold the competitive edge in the global business aviation market.
This can be achieved through innovative ideas. Promoting the economic benefits of the market will lure investors from all over the world.
Time waits for no man, and Africa’s elite, exclusive travelers know that only too well.
According to a review by Mordor Intelligence, Global business jet market – growth, trends and forecast (2018 – 2023), the exclusivity of private jets has ceased to be the domain of the extremely wealthy.
This change is owing to time-share and fractional ownership of aircraft.
ExecuJet reports Africa has 481 registered private jets and the year-on-year growth for the business aviation industry in Africa is 44%.
Private aviation is still a growing market in Africa in comparison to the regions where it is fully developed.
Approximately three quarters of the sale of business jets is in the west, mainly in North America and Europe.
Predictions are that India and China are well on their way to become market leaders by 2020.
With continued industrial growth in Africa, consequently, there has been a rise in business travel.
Despite the lag in competitiveness on a global scale, private aviation in South Africa, which is Africa’s second-largest economy, has the potential to take the continent to new heights as business keeps checking in.
Private jets are commonly used by high-net-worth individuals, business executives, sports teams and government officials.
Time efficiency is the core reason why these jetsetters prefer private aviation over commercial planes. Greater control over flight schedules and operation of the aircraft forms part of the package.
Add privacy and a dash of luxury and the high-flyer is ready for take-off.
The Jet Traveler Report 2018, the global perspective on who flies privately and how, by Wealth-X, categorizes high-fliers into three types to make a comparison based on their flight preferences. These include owners, members and the wider ultra-high-net-worth audience.
Unsurprisingly, 35% owners of private jets are worth more than $500 million as per The Jet Traveler Report.
The majority are over 60 years old. ‘Members’ are frequent fliers on membership programs.
Private jets have now also become more accessible and appealing to the wider executive population.
The report states that on-demand private fliers are the youngest and least wealthy ultra-high-net-worth individuals.
In comparison to the wealth of members and owners, these jetsetters have average wealth of $67 million.
Editor and publisher of SA Flyer and FlightCom magazines, Guy Leitch, says although the South African market is showing signs of recovery, there are shortcomings.
“Poor on-the-ground infrastructure for aviation, poor access to aircraft finance and the lack of aircraft does not ensure adequate support for development,” he says.
The same can be argued for the rest of Africa.
According to the Mordor Intelligence review published in April, lack of infrastructure is one the biggest limitations that affect business jet sales in South America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific.
The costs of building the much-needed infrastructure are so high operations may not be feasible.
Regions like Europe and North America with higher private aircraft demands have lower costs. Flying privately in the regions is charged on a one-way basis, therefore costs are reduced as opposed to Africa where charges are doubled.
“In those regions, there is always an aircraft available that’s going to your destination and you can pay a reduced rate because it is considered an empty leg. Our industry is unfortunately not that far ahead yet,” says Kiggen from ExecuJets.
Industry data by Global Jet Capital released in 2017 indicates that 2025 will witness more than 25% growth in the market.
The influx of new aircraft on the continent is forecast to have a value of $3.9 billion, or just under $500 million per year.
The emergence of the “African affluent” demographic on the continent has become an important emerging segment for the private aviation sector.
These individuals are younger than their European counterparts and are on average 40 years old, according to a report by ExecuJet called The Evolution of Charter Into Africa 2018.
Smartphones and technological mobility make it easier for young flyers on the go, and as a result, gives the market more visibility and mileage.
“Social media has also brought a phenomena called the influencer; these are rich kids or media personalities who document their travel through social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter),” says Kiggen.
These jetsetters snap the glitz and glamor of private flying and share it with other influencers. This also makes it easier for private charter companies in Africa to attract clients from different spheres of life, thus changing the perception that jets are only used by the ultra-rich and famous.
In addition, an increase in enquiries for hiring the jets, from even car manufacturers for their marketing events, shows the market is paving the way for more diversified business.
Jeremy Nel, the CEO of Luxury Brands, a South African luxury marketing group based in Cape Town, argues that although high-flyers use their mobile devices to source best rates and most direct routes, the reputation of the private charter as a brand is something potential clients continue to look out for.
“The branding of the aircraft is also aligned to be the best fit, most clients who outright purchase an aircraft will take the plethora of advice as to the most suitable model for their needs and then choose from the best breed of operators,” says Nel.
Inner-circle referrals and the relationship the client has with the company, in addition to the preference of a specific pilot, can further influence decision-making.
Back in the richest square mile of Africa, Sandton, in a modern office adorned with waterfalls and earthy décor, a tall man dressed in a blue shirt walks in.
When he is not flying over the shimmering turquoise waters of the Maldives, South African pilot Jack Coetzee is the Managing Director at Quintessential Aviation.
With over 1, 500 flying hours to his credit, Coetzee has seen private jet passengers with requirements ranging from Egyptian cotton linen to Kentucky Fried Chicken on the flight.
“It is aircraft-orientated; they like a specific type of aircraft.
“[The customer] knows how the seats work, he knows the pilots invariably that are flying the aircraft are competent,” he says.
As for aspiring owners, Leitch emphasizes they understand the importance of the technicalities of owning an aircraft, to avoid losing money.
The first step is to determine what it will be used for, and then take the size, range and price parameters into consideration.
“New or used [aircraft], it doesn’t matter. Make sure you can crew it, maintain it, afford it and then order it,” he says.
Much like commercial aviation, owners and private charter companies must comply with air laws and the strict regulations set by the civil aviation authorities.
Odette Basson, Charter Manager Africa, at ExecuJets, says some laws are airfield dependent.
This is based on where you are traveling in and out of, so compliance is critical.
“Yes, you can be an owner of a private aircraft but it doesn’t mean you can just do what you want. There are laws that govern the flying,” she says.
In addition to overseeing operations above the ground, regulators keep a close watch on the hours the crew fly, which aircraft they are flying and how frequently they go for training.
“Your crew must be trained specifically, the aircraft must be maintained specifically and according to the operator’s specifications. You must have a commercial license to operate and you must have an air service license. It is actually very well-regulated and governed to death,” says Kiggen.
And thus it is that millions of dollars fly over the richest and poorest cities of Africa.
The sky is a commodity. How much are you willing to splash out for a piece of it?
Executive Protection: Big Bucks, Bullets And Bodyguards
The dark and dangerous lives of the men protecting the rich. The stakes are high and so too the rewards.
Muscled men wearing dark sunglasses, black tuxedos and stern looks, at the entrance of one of Africa’s most luxurious hotels. One of them whispers into a mouthpiece, and a metallic black SUV bearing a VVIP screeches into the parking lot.
Without wasting any time, the area is cleared of passers-by, and a man nattily dressed in a light blue-tailored suit is closely escorted by the men into the hotel lobby.
As the man disappears into a mosaic of opulent walls at The Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton in the pulsating business heart of Johannesburg, an unsuspecting vendor on the pavement slowly re-assembles his wares, oblivious to the high society stakes in the towers over his head.
It is a Wednesday afternoon and the financial hub is a motorist’s nightmare, filled with garrulous weekday traffic. The dark shades of the men in black glint in the sun, as they stand in closed groups engaging in casual conversation but always alive to their surroundings.
These are the bodyguards of the rich and famous, who spend their days and nights putting themselves in the spotlight – and at times, in harm’s way. And they are not to be found only in blockbuster action films. They can be seen in Africa’s elite spaces – you just need to look for them to find them.
But the exaggerated imagery apart, players in this industry protecting high-profile people, say that things have changed.
Graham Ludwig, the Managing Director of BGA Protection, who has been in the executive protection and services industry for over 20 years, says: “There is a stereotype where the bodyguard wears a black suit, red tie and sunglasses. The reality is that you don’t want to dress like that and stand out. You want to blend in and be seen as part of the client’s entourage.”
Often, protectors or ‘detail’ as they are referred to, find themselves dressed in simple chinos and a collar shirt to assume an incognito persona. Keeping a distance and providing protection while not getting too familiar with the client is the main objective.
The high net worth clients generally request these services. However, not all of them insist on subtlety as a prerequisite for the job.
“Generally, executives and high net worth individuals prefer a low-profile detail; they don’t like the flashy lights. That is a big ‘no’ for them; they don’t like driving in convoys. That is something we do in South Africa; but that is really frowned upon,” Ludwig says.
BGA provides executive protection and close protection services, specializing in watching over visitors concerned about security in a particular area.
Other than executives, clients range from actors to musicians and even high-ranking corporate titans who receive mandatory protection.
There are myriad reasons why individuals would require services of this nature, and some of them are indeed reminiscent of action films – business deals gone wrong, political disputes and personal vendetta that result in life-threatening situations.
Threats are often directed to the targeted individual, their family or close business associates.
“Some companies mandate that their executive team have protection because it aligns with the ‘duty of care’ which is a big thing in the industry. Duty of care, effectively, says when an employee visits another country, every possible measure of safety is taken into consideration,” Ludwig says.
Duty of care is commonly applied in finance institutions, the pharmaceuticals industry, and with actors, entertainers and individuals in the travel industry.
A meticulous program is tailor-made as each request is unique to the schedule of the client.
An example, Ludwig offers, is about a client who travels from South Africa to another African country for charity work.
The client makes contact with the service provider, in this case BGA, requesting on-the-ground protection.
“We travel to [the country] with the client’s itinerary. We start the protection at the airport, guarantee that the luggage is handled with the security to ensure that when the plane lands, the baggage is marked to the dedicated vehicle, and that the passport is stamped quickly,” he says.
In preparation for the client’s arrival, an advanced route clearance plan ensures that all movement from the first point of contact to the last is secure.
Clinics, police stations and evacuation plans are painstakingly drafted into the proposal weeks in advance to prepare for any unforeseen eventuality.
Every detail, no matter how minuscule, in the surrounding area is taken into consideration; even the number of stairs in a building is memorized.
But what happens when the client changes plan?
Ludwig says high net worth individuals are less likely to cause trouble when it comes to their own safety.
Unable to pinpoint a bad experience with a client, he highlights that demands, sometimes, have had the Close Protection Officer (CPO) driving through the city in search of a specific bottle of champagne in an unfamiliar environment or at an unearthly hour.
“We were looking after an actor at a premiere, and one of the other protection details [the bodyguards] working with the directors of the movie has a serious background and he doesn’t believe in allowing fans to get close to the stars. He almost broke a guy’s hand who tried to get close, drawing attention to the detail,” Ludwig says.
This is a typical scenario leaving Willie Viljoen, Managing Director of Executive Protection Agency, with no choice but to keep VIP protection protocol to a minimum.
The detail is often mistreated and we have to put up with ridiculous demands like picking up [discarded] tissue paper for the client. It just causes HR issues and draws too much attention.
Viljoen, who joined the company in 2007, but has not been out on the field as a protection officer for the past six years, hopes that a client worth his money will coax him to get out into the streets again.
From protecting Oscar-winning South African actor Charlize Theron to some of the continent’s richest men, Viljoen will always remember his first day on duty.
He candidly offers an anecdote.
An executive in a Chinese construction firm arrived at the Durban harbor with unmarked and unregistered trucks and cranes.
A customs issue, Viljoen had to step in to resolve it.
After spending hours at the harbor, eventually, the two five-ton trucks, guarded by a three-vehicle motorcade, drove off to the Mpumalanga province in South Africa to deliver the items, at a tedious speed of 40km per hour.
What would have been an eight-hour drive turned into a three-day journey that left Viljoen with a lifetime of distaste for the otherwise scenic route.
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
2018 African Of The Year – President of Rwanda Paul Kagame
In an exclusive interview, Paul Kagame, Rwandan President and Chair of the African Union, speaks to Methil Renuka about intra-Africa trade, how governments can drive entrepreneurial growth and why he will always find time to play sports.
The appointment is at 11AM on a November morning in Kigali, and past the tight security at the presidential offices located on KG7 Avenue, the views are of manicured lawns and a verdant paradise with hulking trees, chirping birds and cobbled pathways fringed by hibiscus and frangipani flowers. Kigali is a clean city with rolling hills and green valleys, but the foliage within Village Urugwiro, where we are meeting President Paul Kagame, is a botanist’s dream. A few minutes in the airy waiting lounge – accentuated by cream, olive green colors and a touch of wood – and the president walks in, tall and in an immaculate blue suit. He greets us warmly and is relaxed, joking about how much he dislikes posing for photographs. Yet, he obliges, against the greenery.
Kagame, who is also head of the African Union (AU), has been adjudged the ‘2018 African of the Year’ at the eighth All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA).
Who is he dedicating it to, we ask? “The people of Rwanda,” he says. He shares more with FORBES AFRICA:
Q. You are completing a year as chair of the African Union. Africa is such a diverse heterogeneous continent, with each country having its own interests. How challenging is your job in bringing a balance?
A. It’s absolutely challenging, and as you rightly said, you have to deal with diverse interests, cultures and backgrounds. Yet, Africa needs to be together in handling continental matters because there are more things that similarly affect Africans than are different. There are also different mentalities. You find some people are used to doing things a certain way, even if they are shown – or they see for themselves – that doing things differently might bring better results, they still stick to the old ways.
Talking about my task… The first thing is to pay attention to people’s concerns, to people’s ways of looking at things and take all that into account, as you also create space for people to discuss openly and show how we are all together in a different time than we have been used to… The moment you create that space for discussion, which we have done, the moment you increase consultation and also allow people to participate in challenging the points of views out there that tend to shape directions, we all have to follow, especially when you are able to identify things with certain success stories that exist. For example, in a country not making good progress or that is not ready to change, you can still point to their own situation and say ‘no, but you actually made good progress in this area because these were the contributing factors’. This can always be explained even in the wider context of where we want to go as a continent by coming together. So unity and regional integration have been emphasized.
We have been able to show that entrepreneurship, business and intra-Africa trade that have been lacking are actually more important than focusing solely on the market outside of the continent… That conversation helps people understand more, it helps people come together and we keep reminding them your neighbor is more important than someone far away from you. We are all neighbors one way or the other. My country has four neighbors and then one of the other countries we are neighbors with has nine neighbors. So it cuts across. We find we are actually very closely-linked and therefore, as we look at ourselves as individual countries, we need to recognize that if it’s sub-regional blocs or the continent, we become bigger, we are actually better off for it if we work together. Businesses and economies grow multiple times when we work together.
What I discovered from the beginning was there is no magic here other than just working with what there is and being realistic about it and allowing that conversation, and challenging one another, and being real in pointing out real things that matter, and we take it from there. And I think it has been good progress. We have put a lot of effort into it and every African country, every African leader, has played their part. So we just keep encouraging and keep going. Later, we can show everyone the benefit coming out of this very short period’s effort of working together.
Q. One of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 of the AU is a united Africa. How important is it for the rest of the world to see Africa as a single powerhouse?
A. We need it. We need that backdrop from which we should see things and remind ourselves how this continent is actually great, a continent projected to be 2.5 billion by 2050. That’s huge, bigger than any other continent. Africa is endowed with all kinds of resources, and natural resources, so how do you not think it’s important? Therefore, we have to create a clear context in which we operate and understand all aspects of this value of being in a position where we have huge assets in terms of people and natural resources and everything that anyone would wish for. So what remains is, how do we harness this? How do we leverage this? So we had to create long-term, medium-term pathways and say we should develop human capital and infrastructure. This huge workforce that keeps coming… 29 million supposed to be [pouring] into the labor market every year [until] 2030; you’ve got to think about this and ask what it means. It’s a huge asset if we make correct investments. It’s also a huge risk if you just keep [pouring] 29 million people in the labor market when they have nothing to do. The framework of 2063 provides sufficient room for us to think, reflect and therefore make the right investments for us to fulfill continental aspirations.
Q. The concept of a single African market. How far are we from realizing that?
A. I was pleasantly surprised when we had the summit here for the African Continental Free Trade Area. Initially, scepticism was expressed by some people, saying ‘but this can’t work, it can’t happen, Africa is divided, it never gets things right together’. So when the leaders came to Kigali for this extraordinary summit, we expected only a few countries to sign up, but we got 44 countries signing up on the first day. But we have also seen how it has been increasing, with countries ratifying the free trade area and free movement of people, goods and services. Therefore, that is a signal Africans understood the importance of this, and it is important indeed if we want to transform our economies and allow opportunities for prosperity to our people… I think [the single African market] is making very good progress even with that background of scepticism. We have already left that behind us and are moving forward.
Q. You are a leader who looks to the future not forgetting a painful past. How hard were the last two decades for you?
A. Very hard (laughs), which is an understatement, but that is the spirit, about learning lessons of the difficulties you have gone through but not allowing that to hold you back, to make you a hostage of that tragic experience, but rather learn lessons as quickly as you can and focus on where we are going in the future and doing our best to even keep making references to that past if you will. And therefore helping you to decide which choices to make at any given time in the future. So, 20 years has been a journey of difficulties but I think of the good stories too, and that is what encourages all of us.
We have had tragedies, and at the same time, the efforts of bringing people together through reconciliation, through deciding which direction we take for our future… the people have responded with energy, with positivity, and that has not come to nothing, it has actually borne fruit. We’ve seen progress.
Even the people, when you look at their faces and you look at how they go about things, it as if nothing ever happened here, yet history is loaded with terrible experiences. And apart from those tragic experiences, we have had other external pressures – people who are quick to forget. Sometimes, the demands [are] even from the outside about how we should deal with things, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, as if our lives are to be decided from the outside and as if we have nothing to do with determining our own course in the future.
But we have calmly had dialogue with such people behind those pressures. We have also focused and really concentrated on what we understand, even the hard choices we have to make, but the good thing is, every three or five years down the road, we were able to measure and say, ‘well, what have we gained from the different choices and efforts we made’. Could we have done things differently or even better? Even putting into account all these unnecessary external lessons, and pressures, we still listen. We don’t fall short on that. We always listen, but at the same time, we fully understand we are the ones for ourselves.
Q. Speaking about the future, Rwanda has been a pioneer in private sector-led economic transformation. What to you are the new industries and wealth creators of the future?
A. From the outset, we understood we have to deal with people. How do you invest in them, how do you prepare them for their role? As a government, we have to improve their lives but also allow this broad national transformation to take place. Then it comes to skills. You give them more opportunities to access things that cut across what they have to do, whether it is the agriculture sector and the agri-businesses around that and the whole value chain, and remembering that agriculture, for example, is very important.
The other part is we have seen, in terms of technology, infrastructure, digitalization, the internet; we have to prepare people to use that, as they have a multiplying effect in many ways, even if it is in public service, and delivery of that in the population that plays that part… Different sectors are impacted by this, therefore, provide the infrastructure to do that, and then the innovation that will come along with it… So these are things we think about – how to create wealth for our own people, how to allow people to thrive…
But then, around that are rules of the game. How do you create an environment to allow disruption and innovation? For example, if you look at how we have been preparing the ground and allowing these activities to take place, in terms of even globally in the ease of doing business – the World Bank report where Rwanda is 29th in the world and second in Africa. All these are to answer that question: how do we create this wealth? It’s the environment, it is specific things to invest in, it’s how we leverage the resources we have.
Q. How do you promote entrepreneurial capitalism, how are you looking at youth-led startups?
A. The question you raise is important. For example, we have an initiative called YouthConnekt, where we try to encourage young people to be innovative. We give them cash prizes, but this is to excite them and make them think innovatively. It also creates healthy competition among young people, but above all, it stimulates them to think [about] what they need to do that fits in with the times we are in. We also have formed business development funds that cut across districts and the country that help people understand what entrepreneurship holds for them and that they can participate and therefore, we give them seed money, if they specifically come up with these ideas but some of the ideas may come through this support by educating them. We have created an Innovation Fund, and help thousands of our young people by combining both innovation and entrepreneurship, we hope to keep exciting our young people to be able to do a number of things. We have national entrepreneurship programs.
Every five years, we see what this has done, what impact it has had, and also make improvements. So it keeps going. It has had a huge impact. We see it has been working and draw lessons from these experiences of young people feeding back to us as government institutions and then we respond as much as we can. Of course, governments have limitations. It doesn’t have everything it requires or wishes to deploy, to reach the goals we want. We’ve been trying to be thoughtful in involving the young people. We have also provided them educational programs that include vocational training and technical programs that help them to not just study in schools and sometimes come up with no skills, but to also acquire knowledge. The skills that are required for employment are lacking so we have also tried to cover that gap and are making good progress.
Q. What really drives entrepreneurship? How do we make sure young people stay on the continent?
A. It is a combination of many things. Some of it may even be political, meaning, the political environment must be that of reassurance to the citizens in general, but to the young people as well, and reassurance in a sense that it not something you just deliver to them, but something you deliver by allowing them to participate or [by conveying that] they have a place in their own country, and politically, they can participate, which again relates to the socioeconomic part of it.
Therefore, if politically, they understand they are participants and not just observers – they need to even participate in addressing some of the problems – then the next demand is ‘what about these bread-and-butter issues, how do I take care of myself, take care of my family; every effort is being done by the government to allow us young people to really play our part; and it means I start with my own environment, in my country, but how about if we connect across borders’?
So to a great extent, it speaks to politics. How do African countries and leaders allow this cross-border economic activity that interests these young people and holds them here so they don’t reach a point where they become desperate in which [case] they go to other places? Sometimes, they reach these [other places] and actually find the situation is even worse, so we have to find a way of talking directly to the young people, but above all, create new things on the ground they can experience and participate in.
It’s not one side that is going to deliver it and put on the table, it’s everybody. It has to be everyone, leaders of countries, and leaders of different kinds who have to play a bigger role.
Q. How do you think capitalists, billionaires and African business can help this process and work collaboratively with the government?
A. We want the private sector to be in the lead of our countries’ or continental transformation; that is for sure, but again, collaboration is important and this is the big burden that lies with governments and we must address how we allow not only the private sector to thrive, to freely do what it is meant to do, but how do we work with them. For example, many times that there have been discussions about private-public partnerships, some people are uncomfortable about them. You don’t understand why. There is no question that if the government played its part in allowing the private sector to thrive and the private sector also understands that if they do their part with the government, that’s very important in the thriving of the citizens of the country, which again constitute the market in which we operate.
So if the people of Rwanda are thriving, the citizens are well, then the business person should be happy because this is the market in which they play. But you can’t be rich and continue sustainably as a businessman in a very impoverished market. It’s just common sense. So if the market, the people are thriving, it feeds back to the private sector but then the private sector should respond in the same way… I mean if you’re a government person, a political leader, you also want to see a country that is registering economic growth, registering development. I think the private sector-mind is going to respond positively to these good signals originating from the political environment, from the leadership. It’s in their interest as well. So we really should be happy with the private-public partnership. There is no question about it, it’s a win-win sort of relationship.
Q. A leader, military leader and father to four children. What is the role you cherish most and how do you find the time to do justice to each?
A. I consider myself lucky, in this sense, I don’t even have to make a lot of effort in being myself; that is the starting point. I try to be myself, I try to be a family person, a person that relates with relatives, friends, and not only here, but outside the country. So I am first and foremost comfortable with that. The rest that comes along with that is the responsibility I now hold. I need no reminder that many people look up to me to say ‘what is he thinking [about] us, what are we going to be able to achieve with his leadership’. It doesn’t matter how the leadership role I play came about, whether it was accidental or planned, but I am there, so I have to play this role effectively.
It’s really trying to be comfortable with myself, comfortable as a family person, as a person who has friends, and who relates to even those who are not my friends directly (laughs). I have the responsibility to them and I must do as much as I can fairly without fear or favor. The balance has been happening without much effort.
Q. How do you unwind? Do you get the time to play sport?
A. I do a lot of sport. I have to create time, there is no doubt. In fact, at times, I have to do things at strange hours, sometimes when others are sleeping… I even do my exercises very late in the night when I should be resting, but again, I always find ways of compensating for what I have missed because I also have to find time to rest, to sleep, above all.
I never lack sleep. Whenever I have a few hours to put my head on the pillow, without much effort, I go to sleep.
I do follow sport. I have been a good fan of Arsenal football club for about three decades now. Whenever they are playing, whatever game, whenever I have the time, I always want to watch.
I do follow other sports as well. I watch tennis, basketball – I follow the National Basketball Association (NBA).
I used to play basketball for fun, but am not a professional, and I never came anywhere near that. But I play tennis, I work out and enjoy watching games if I am not able to play.
Q. Your favorite sportsmen…?
A. They are many. For basketball, for many years, my favorite team for NBA has been the Golden State Warriors. I enjoy watching Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, but of course I also enjoy watching LeBron James, and then there are young upcoming players I have now started following.
‘2018 African of the Year’
‘African of the Year’ is one of the categories at the eighth All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA).
The annual event (held this year on November 29) honors business excellence and leaders who have had a considerable impact on their industry and community. The nominees for the ‘African of the Year’ category, including several African statesmen, were judged based on the following criteria: their international profile, positive impact, their ability to build equality, develop society, champion inclusiveness, deal with corruption, transform society, enforce governance, alleviate poverty, lead economic development and be an African leader who is a role model.
Paul Kagame: The Rwandan president and head of the African Union (AU) has spent this year improving the economic conditions of his country, and talking continental trade. He made headlines for the partnership with Alibaba, and for improving the ease of doing business in Rwanda as attested by the World Bank. Rwanda has inked a three-year deal as the tourism partner of English football club Arsenal. As a tribute to growing regional cooperation, three months after assuming the chairmanship of the AU, Kagame hosted, in Kigali, over 50 African heads of state, for the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which envisions a single market expected to generate a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion and benefiting 1.2 billion people. So far, 49 countries have come on board.
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