Wall Street Comes to Rwanda

By Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Richmond

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — In a conference room-turned-classroom, 70 professionals, ranging from junior analyst and mid-level manager to executive, worked at computers while a trainer explained the intricacies of financial modeling. What distinguished this program from any other financial training session, though, was not the content, but the setting: Kigali, Rwanda.

The Training The Street financial analyst program was recently brought to Rwanda, a tiny landlocked country in eastern Africa, which is in the midst of developing a professional workforce as it evolves from subsistence agriculture to an economy based on information and communication technology (ICT). Its goal is to raise per capita income to $1,000 or more by 2020, from $200 in 2000 and about $560 currently.

It is an ambitious, even audacious, plan for a country which, nearly 18 years ago, was the scene of a horrific genocide in which one million people were killed in 100 days. The country has launched a national campaign of unification and reconciliation since then, and economic revitalization and development of a middle class are keys to its future.

For Alex Lue, a New York City-based trainer for Training The Street, going to Rwanda was a fantastic opportunity for a well-regarded Wall Street program that was being offered for only the second time in Africa, the previous program being in Lagos, Nigeria. “The desire and ambition to learn was everything we asked for. It’s been fantastic,” Lue said.

The five-day training in Kigali, which was largely financed through a grant from JP Morgan Chase, had to be tailored to the various skill levels of participants. “Some people were at the pace of the instructors, and others were a little slower,” said Clay D. Parker, managing director, business development, for Bridge2Rwanda, an American NGO that seeks to help build businesses in Rwanda and promote servant leadership. Bridge2Rwanda was the local sponsor and organizer of the Training The Street program. “Several of the participants commented that it used to take two weeks to put together financial models that could be presented to a board of directors. Now, they are realizing that, with the efficiencies they learned, that can be done in two days,” Parker added.

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