When Jonathan Goldstein (MBA 1990) first traveled to Rwanda in 2002 to talk about venture capital with President Paul Kagame’s cabinet, he was surprised to find the cabinet members “weren’t requesting immediate investments or handouts.”
“They were much more strategic,” says Goldstein, senior advisor at the private equity firm TA Associates. “They asked, ‘What do we need to do today to help us attract international investors in the future?’ They were considering investments in infrastructure, resources, and education that would nurture Rwandan companies. They wanted advice on building a sustainable economy.”
To date, Goldstein has made eight trips to Rwanda with his wife, Kaia Miller Goldstein, an economic development consultant who serves on Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council with HBS Professor Michael Porter, a long-time collaborator. “The president has embraced Porter’s concept of investing where the country has a natural competitive advantage,” Goldstein explains.
That strategy has led to significant advances in areas such as tourism, coffee and tea production, and incubators and maker spaces for start-up businesses. “Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has been rated the top place to do business in Africa,” reports Goldstein, who devotes his time there to informal meetings and discussions with government and business leaders.
The Goldsteins’ summer 2015 Rwandan entourage numbered 31 people—among them HBS and MIT alumni, entrepreneurs, and investors—who eagerly provided commentary and encouragement as they toured Rwandan factories and farms, visited schools, and met with government officials.
“Rwandans are all about learning from what others have done to succeed,” Goldstein notes. “Watching the progress that can happen when people make those connections is an amazing experience.”
(Published September 2015)
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