01 September 2010

This morning I went to the US embassy to meet with Alex Sokoloff, commercial and economic development officer. Alex is very well informed about the business environment in Rwanda, as well as resources available to businesses through the US government. We discussed OPIC, ExIm Bank, and political risk insurance. Additionally, and of greatest interest to me, was our discussion about the US government’s new Feed the Future initiative. The program is designed to support agricultural value chains in certain countries, and Rwanda is one of the focus countries. Given our vision in Rwanda to participate in the development of the food industry, I’m excited to learn more about the implementation plans for FTF in Rwanda, especially since Alex said there’s an emphasis on working with private sector partners. Alex is going to introduce me to a person within USAID who heads up this work.

In front of the embassy is a large roundabout, and in Rwanda, the vehicle in the roundabout has the right-of-way. As I was pulling into the roundabout, I yielded to a gray Landcruiser, then pulled in behind. As we progressed around the roundabout, I noticed a vehicle about 25 yards behind me … a black Mercedes with flags on each side of the hood near the front.  Then, the Landcruiser stopped completely, and two of the guys inside motioned, in a rather animated state, for me to pull over. I continued slowly around the roundabout, and then a blue and white Rwandan police vehicle cut quickly in front of me and stopped, effectively forcing me to stop. A large police officer strode toward my vehicle with his hand on his weapon. I won’t detail the ensuing discussion but just leave you with the understanding that what I had done was to intrude on the presidential motorcade. Yes, I had just cut in front of President Kagame’s vehicle and was between his security detail and the vehicle in which he was traveling! It’s not something I would recommend to others, but it’s a good story. (By the way, the officers refused my request to take a picture with them so that I could substantiate these events.)

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