Rwanda Rising: A New Model of Economic Development

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nobody likes to say “No, Mr. President.” So three years ago, when Costco CEO Jim Sinegal got a call from shareholder Dan Cooper, a partner in Chicago’s Fox River Financial Resources, asking if he’d have lunch with Rwandan president Paul Kagame, he agreed. That meeting in New York led to a presidential stop at Costco HQ near Seattle. Which led to Sinegal’s promise to visit Rwanda. “I made it in a moment of weakness,” he says, “before I realized how long it takes to get there.” He ended up taking his whole family, and today Costco is one of the two biggest buyers of Rwandan coffee beans — about 25% of the country’s premium crop, by Sinegal’s estimation. Without Cooper’s introduction, “no way would this have happened. I knew the Rwanda story, but I wasn’t intimately involved,” Sinegal says. “It took more elbow grease to get this started up, but it has been very profitable. Good for us and good for them.”

( editorial note: Thanks to Elizabeth Hooper for the news suggestion.)

Source: Fast Company (link opens in a new window)