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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Inspire Africa serves up a surprise as Season I ends


After 14 weeks of intense business tasks and boardroom drama, the first edition of the Inspire Africa reality show that has been showing on NTV every Wednesday and repeats on Sunday, finally reached a grand finale in Kigali last Sunday (April 1).

Clarisee, Inspire Africa Season I winner
The show that hit our small screens in January is only part of the Project Inspire Africa aimed at “identifying the best young business minds in Africa and guiding them through their entrepreneurial cause by providing them with logistical assistance, knowledge and other requisite services to propel them into successful business personalities.”

It was double happiness for the people of Rwanda when their home girl, Clarisse Iribagiza, scooped the $50,000 jackpot as business start-up capital, while the bookmaker’s favourite, Uganda’s Dr Davis Musinguzi was left heartbroken. When the Project CEO Nelson Tugume pronounced the winner, I thought it an April Fool’s Day stunt because I expected Musinguzi to win on account of his stellar performance from the beginning.

Musinguzi was team leader twice and on both accounts helped his team excel. In the first task about humble beginnings, his team was given $40 to buy fruits, add value and make profit. After squeezing and packaging the juice, Davis and team stormed Wandegeya and sold all, their packages, making a profit of over 100 percent, without prior sales experience! The stunning results came from his meticulous planning and dexterous execution. In another task, he led his team to develop a new route and market entry strategy for the new Boeing for Rwanda Air. He convinced the Rwanda Air bosses that Lagos could improve the financial fortunes of the company, and now the airline operates in Nigeria.

At the grand finale, Bobi Wine was asked by the CEO who he thought deserved the money. The singer acknowledged Iribagiza’s leadership skills but said Musinguzi 's brilliance was rare. “Healthcare is a priority in Africa, so Davis deserves the money,” Bobi asserted, alluding to the doctor's Medical Concierge, a company that provides an on-call service of the best medical professionals. The 24-year-old wanted the money to expand the life-saving enterprise.

But what is it about Iribagiza that convinced the uncompromisingly tough CEO that she was the “captain Africa” he was looking for to use the $50,000 to build a business empire that will last? Well, it must have something to do with the girl’s combination of intelligence, confidence and pragmatism.

“It’s tough, rough, harsh business world out there; the faint of heart quit, the weak fall, and only the tough and resilient make it,” the CEO used to say. And to be sure, beneath Iribagiza's charm and loveliness is a shrewd go-getter who at only 22 is already the CEO of HeHe Ltd., a mobile applications development company in Rwanda she founded as a university student. So while Musinguzi is enviably eloquent and assertive, in the end it’s the quiet shrewdness of the software engineer that won over the youthful CEO. That she outsmarted 24 contestants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda to make it among the final three including Uganda's Manuel Pacutho as well, was not accidental.

At the grand finale, South African billionaire Graham Power, advised the finalists to cling to hard work, truth, integrity, value and determination to excel and transform the entrepreneur world. The reality show, according to the brain behind it, will enlighten over 50 million people with business practice skills from which 100 successful enterprises are expected to start every year. Mr Tugume is optimistic widespread poverty and unemployment will be history, on top of transforming the African economy through these young business-minded people mentored through Project InspAfrica.

Preparations for Season II are underway, with Burundi and Southern Sudan being added to the participating countries.

--Saturday Monitor April 07, 2012