Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tripbod traveller in Rwanda interviews local vendors

We are, as it happens, lodging at a humble guest-house called Gorilla Friends; we found this apt and somewhat amusing as we are friends of the gorillas – however the amusement may have been at the giant elephant that was in the room, which was that this guest house was a little basic, and we still had to investigate the long drop loos out in the back! Oh my... all we could do now was to have a few beers, happy days! Oh, and the food was fantastic, who would have thought it, eh?

As I had expected, I awoke and was amazed at the misty sunshine all around, like a winter morning in the Lake District really. Just glorious! Then, off we set to do our research; we were to interview the local people on the craft stalls in Bwindi.
As I have noticed, in Africa the idea of competitive pricing is not really evident and also there is no real knowledge that if you swamp the market then there is no market. Therefore, in towns, villages and jungles alike, if man set up a stall to sell crafts then suddenly, within seconds twelve more would pop up surrounding this man’s humble stall, all selling identical products. This is why in Kigali there are regions in the city only selling hardware or only selling clothes and so on, completely overwhelming the customer. This was evident in Bwindi; on one small stretch of road, maybe 100 metres in length, there were approximately twenty craft stalls. It was our job to interview these locals to ask them if they had any interest in expanding business and maybe diversifying into other areas such as agriculture, or interlinking with the private sector businesses such as the very smart private lodges catering to exclusive high-end clients, and selling their products there.

As expected, many already had been expanding, with any money earned being reinvested in the current shop, used to pay for school fees or invested in land - and maybe even in property building. These people utilise all they have, however small, and make it work for them; they make something from nothing. This was mind-boggling; the entrepreneurship and drive of these people in the middle of this forest was just inspirational!

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