Rwanda is a country of opportunity. According to The World Bank, Rwanda is the second easiest country in Africa to run a business. Registering your business at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) can take a matter of minutes.
However, being a foreigner starting a business in Rwanda can be a challenge. Being a foreigner with no business background can be an even bigger challenge.
When Co-Founder and Co-Director, Julie Greene, and I registered The Women’s Bakery as a business in Rwanda in August 2015, we had no idea what a wild ride was in store for us.
Since then, we have had to learn the ins and outs of many regulatory bodies including the Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Revenue Authority, Rwanda Social Security Board, Rwanda Standards Board, Immigration, and the list goes on.
The simple, most important lesson I have learned in Rwanda is that our days are filled with barriers, but almost every barrier also has a solution. Every day, multiple times a day, we need to craft solutions to meet the challenges, regulations, and broken systems that we face.
Let me give you an example.
When we first started filing taxes for our full-time employees we couldn’t physically upload the excel template to the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) online portal (which was required to process taxes). I waited 45 minutes for an RRA staff member to help me every day for a week straight. After countless hours talking to a variety of staff members, one was finally able to help me find the root of the problem. This was that the excel file was only formatted for PC computers and not for Macs. As a result, one of the columns in the excel was using the incorrect date format causing the whole document to throw an error when trying to upload it.
We have learned so many lessons in the past two and a half years and we look forward to collaboratively using our problem-solving skills to tackle the million more challenges headed in our direction in the years to come.