One of my most memorable experiences as a reporter was a trip to Rwanda in 2005. You canâ€™t go there without feeling the effects of the 1994 genocide that killed about 800,000 people. I stayed in the Milles Collines hotel that was the setting for the movie Hotel Rwanda, visited a genocide memorial in the capital city of Kigali and drove a couple of hours to a small-town church where hundreds of people had been killedâ€”the bones and their clothing have been left undisturbed.
I traveled to Rwanda with Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor and best-selling author, who I later wrote about in Fortune. On the trip, too, were a couple of Chicago-area businessmen, Joe Ritchie and Dan Cooper. Joe and Dan have been working hard for the past couple of years to drum up interest in Rwanda from American companies, and their work, which is bearing fruit, is the topic of todayâ€™s CNNMoney column. Here’s how it begins:
It’s not every day that an African head of state delivers a corporate endorsement at an annual shareholder meeting. But Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, did just that last week at Starbucks’ meeting in Seattle.
Starbucks’ chief executive, Jim Donald, introduced Kagame, who praised the $8-billion-a-year company. “Starbucks and Rwanda are extended family, very closely linked by the business we do together and the passion we share,” Kagame said. His comments delivered welcome relief from the criticism aimed at Starbucks over a recent trademark dispute with Ethiopian coffee growers.
Best known today for the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 of its people, Rwanda is, thanks to Kagame, quietly building a new reputation in corporate America – as a business-friendly nation that wants to become a model of private sector development in Africa.
You can read the rest of the column here.