Clare Akamanzi, a 2020 Amujae Leader, was recently interviewed on the Everyday Ubuntu podcast, a weekly series where guests discuss empowerment, human rights, politics, and news with host Mungi Ngomane.
Ms. Akamanzi was asked about her experiences growing up in Uganda and Rwanda, her work as CEO of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), and her participation in the EJS Center’s Amujae Initiative.
Born in Uganda to Rwandan refugee parents, Ms. Akamanzi developed a strong appreciation of the value of being a citizen of any country. She shared how, when her family was able to return to Rwanda, she initially felt a strong clash of identities and wasn’t sure where to call home. Now, she feels very fortunate to be a citizen of Rwanda and to have a role in its continued rebuilding.
Ms. Akamanzi noted that Rwanda is often cited as a success story: it has low levels of corruption, is a leader in gender equality, has a strong investment climate, and is known for its care for the environment—all of which she believes could not have happened without good leadership. This, according to Ms. Akamanzi, involves three elements:
“First, it’s people-centered. Every decision must be about those people. It’s also about service —not privilege or power, not recognition. The third element is results. If you serve people, you get results; you make them better off than they were.”
She has also brought these elements into her experience as an Amujae Leader. When discussing the strengths of the Amujae Initiative, Ms. Akamanzi said:
“It’s a great platform to build women’s solidarity, and I’ve seen that it’s very important as women to have a network of leaders that you can hear from, learn from, and share experiences . And in doing that, really raise the ambition of women leaders to do more and serve more…I believe this kind of platform is very important not just in nurturing leadership, but in also inspiring great leadership.”
As CEO of the RDB, Ms. Akamanzi works to promote the success and development of Rwandan businesses. Rebuilding Rwanda and its economy has been a challenging task. One hindrance to growth and development has been overcoming historic divisions to unite as one people, which she noted is still a work in progress. Rwandans have also had to shift their mindsets to believe that they are deserving of a cleaner, more productive environment, she said.
However, Ms. Akamanzi also described how she has seen foreign investors and other organizations shifting their perceptions and beginning to see Rwanda as a place to do business. She noted that many challenges still remain, but whenever things feel tough, she reflects on what her ancestors went through, and how her own troubles are smaller in comparison:
“What keeps me pushing forward is to see what my ancestors went through, and I see that I am privileged. Whatever circumstances I am in, I am privileged…I think about the greater challenges that have been overcome by other people, and that helps me accept my challenge, deal with it, and focus on what is actually really important.”
Looking to the future, Ms. Akamanzi hopes that Rwanda will continue on its path towards becoming a prosperous and inclusive country:
“ also wish for Rwanda to be a country of values. A country that sees itself as worthy of the global stage, that demands respect, and earns respect, because it has values and worth beyond just money…I think we are on a journey of building that.”
Beyond Rwanda, Ms. Akamanzi holds great hopes for the future of Africa and believes that it has everything it needs to become one of the most prosperous geographies in the world. Now is the time for the continent to remain steadfast in its demands and believe in itself, she said, while teaching its children to do the same.
You can listen to the full interview with Ms. Akamanzi on the Everyday Ubuntu podcast here.