10 Amazing facts about Rwanda and Reasons to visit in 2018

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2018 is an exciting year for my beautiful nation, Rwanda, and for travelers around the world. As a proud Rwandan, I am very happy that we are finally starting to get the recognition we deserve by many international tourism agencies around the World.

As we start this year, Rwanda has been featured as one of the best places to travel to in 2018. This article will give you a brief introduction to Rwanda and explain why we have been recognized highly. Hope you add Rwanda to your wish list.

RWANDA is a beautiful country in the East African Region. It is a landlocked country situated between DRC ( Democratic Republic of Congo) in the West, Uganda in the north, Tanzania in the East and Burundi in the south.

Rwanda Map 2018

Rwandan Map and its neighboring countries ( DRC, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi)

Despite its horrible past history of 1994 genocide against Tutsi, Rwanda is moving forward together, stronger and faster than anybody envisioned. Today, 24 years after 1994, Rwanda is definitely nothing like the movie “Hotel-Rwanda” or ” Sometimes in April”. We are a peaceful, developing country, with the ambition to change the course of its history for the better.

This is why international travel agencies such as CNN Travel, New York Times, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, the Vogue, and many others have featured Rwanda among the “must see”  locations for 2018. Bear with me as I introduce you to my beautiful home country of Rwanda.

Rwandan Flag

  1. Kigali: The capital city of RWANDA

Kigali has been voted as the cleanest and one of the most organized cities in Africa. In 2017, The United Nations nominated Kigali as the most beautiful city in Africa.

The beauty of Kigali combined in one! It is also a major tourist attraction

Public roundabout nearby the Kigali Convention Center

2. Environmental Sustainability The first country to ban plastic bags in the World)

Green city! Public Park in Kigali

The use of plastic bags was banned in 2008. Literally, no plastic bag is allowed to enter Rwanda. Even at the airport, you give up your plastic bags, and they give you biodegradable or reusable paper bag. It is amazing! Check out this British journalist story at the Rwandan Airport ( Credit: The Guardian UK).

Snapshot a British journalist story in the Guardian article

3. Monthly Community Service in the whole country

It’s called Umuganda in the local language, which means “ working together”. The last Saturday of the month, each community delegates a place to meet up and do something positive to the community. Usually, activities involve cleaning up, planting out trees, building a house for the poor, infrastructure ( a local school, hospital), or something of that nature. The idea is to work together for the betterment of the community and the Rwandan society at large.

The President getting to work at Umuganda

See this man in the photo above? Yes, he is the president of Rwanda. He does the Umuganda too. In fact, every month, he goes to different locations around the country to do Umuganda with the people.

4. Paul Kagame, the best president in Africa, right now.

I can’t think of any other president who has transformed his/her country, literally from being hopeless to hopeful, from a disaster to an economic recovery, from literally nothing to something. Perhaps, most importantly, he has inspired and motivated the next generation of young leaders, like myself. He leads by example. He does talk less, but he does so much. A complete opposite of many African leaders. The man of action, himself! He just got elected to another 7-year term.

Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda

5. The most number of women in the parliament in the World.

64% of the members of the Rwandan parliament in both chambers ( Senate and deputy) are women. No wonder why the country is doing well. Regulations mandates that at least 30% of all government institutions have to be women. From top-level ministers level to low-level leaders in the communities. You talk about women’s rights, equality and all that? In Rwanda, we don’t just preach equality. We are doers. The population is 50% men, 50% women, so it makes sense to include women at all levels of decision making in the government. Doesn’t it?

64% of Rwandan parliament members are women.

See this photo below? All women flight crew, Captain and her co-pilot of the RwandAir, the national air carrier and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Very rare to see elsewhere, but not in Rwanda.

Captain and her co-pilot, posing for a photo opportunity with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

6. Tea and Coffee ( Some of the best coffee in the World)

Rwandan coffee beans

Every year, Rwandan coffee wins some of the best international awards for best quality coffee. You can order you some here if you are interested. Let me know if you have had any other coffee that competes with ours.

One of the best coffees in the world

I am a coffee stud myself. So, I would be interested to know who are our competitors!

7. Kigali Convention Center ( The most expensive building on the African continent). It cost about 300 million USD.

Kigali Convention Center in Kigali, Rwanda

It is a masterpiece of architecture combining arts, culture, and modern design together. it is a major venue for big national and international meetings and assemblies. It has hosted African Union meetings, the World Economic forums, and many more.

8. Regardless of your nationality, you do not need a visa to come to RWANDA.

 

Visa upon arrival to the citizens of the world, Rwandan Immigration Services

Starting January 2018, you don’t need to apply for a visa to come to RWANDA. Want to come to Rwanda? No problem. You will get a 90-day visa at all Rwandan borders and airports if you are African; and 30–60 days if you are from other continents. Other countries are closing, tightening up their borders, we are opening them and welcoming the world. I love it.

9. Beautiful Mountain Gorilla and amazing Safaris Experience

Mountain Gorillas at Virunga National Park

Rwanda has 50% of all the mountain gorillas in the world. They are endangered species, so Rwanda does a great job at preserving these treasures. You will have the best experience touring and visiting the amazing creatures.This is my cousin photo last time we were there. Amazing experience!

My cousin, posing nearby ( 1 meter away) a gorilla and her two babies in the back at Virunga National Park.

Also, if you want to see all sorts of animals ( Hippos, Lions, Zebras, etc) at their natural habitat, Rwanda has all you need. Akagera National Park and Nyungwe National Park are the main ones. Forget about the zoos, come to Rwanda. We will take you where they live.

Giraffes at Akagera National Park

Zebras and other animals in the Akagera National Park

10. Rich culture and Traditions (Amazing hospitality, great and friendly people. ):

Rwanda is a very welcoming country. We have a rich culture of dance, music, arts and all that. There is nothing we enjoy more than sharing our culture with others. If you come visit us, we will be happy to share it with you. Below are a few photos of our sisters showcasing our amazing culture through dance and music.

Traditional Rwandan dance

Rich culture and tradition

That’s all for now. I hope you learned something new about my country, Rwanda. Obviously, there are many facts about RWANDA, but this is a good introduction. If I get more likes, I will make another post. I will expand on arts, fashion, sports, economy, and other interesting facts about RWANDA.

If you travel quite a bit, I hope I can convince you to add Rwanda to your wish list. Remember, no visa application! At your arrival, it costs $ 30 and takes between 3 to 5 minutes. CNN Travel just named Rwanda number 11 out of 18 best places to travel in 2018, so don’t miss out.

Help me spread the word about what Rwanda is Today!

Unfortunately, 8 out of 10 people I meet in the United States and Europe seem to assume that still 1994-RWANDA they watched the movie about the Rwandan genocide. They ask me: Have you seen the movie, “Hotel Rwanda”? Is that real? How is the country right now? Is your family safe/okay? Over the years, these kinds of questions get repetitive and annoying.

This is why I am writing this piece to shed some light on false assumptions and stereotypes that seem to not go away despite all the progress that Rwandans have been making for the past 23 years. Help me spread the word and share this article with your friends.

Let’s educate and inform the world about the new Rwanda by sharing one post at a time.

Cheers! Thank you!

Didier Champion

Bonus pictures:

Public Transportation Bus station in Kigali, Rwanda

Downtown Kigali-Rwanda

Credit to Rwanda, the heart of Africa, facebook page for allowing me to use their pictures. For more pictures, check them out!

Subscribe to my blog if you want to get a notification whenever I publish a new article. I pride myself to bring you good quality content. 

 

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How does it feel to be a US immigrant from one of the countries that Trump called a “shithole”?

I am from Rwanda, a beautiful country in the East African region. According to Trump’s statement, my country would be considered a “shithole” too!

Rwandan Flag

Honestly, I was very offended. I wondered how do we have such president in the oval office. Out of 330 million Americans, how did we end up with this stupid-crazy and racist dude?

A friend of mine was flying from Rwanda to the United States today. We talked about our feelings and was telling him how I was very angry and hurt. Then, he said: U know, the best way to fight racism, arrogance, and ignorance is, by love, compassion, and kindness. It is Martin Luther King weekend, remember!

I continued to think about it, and finally, I made a conscious decision. If I get offended by every one of Trump’s racist statements, I will always be disappointed.

So, I decided that it was in my best interests to stay HIGH every time he goes LOW. In the end, I laughed it off and moved on.

How is Rwanda exactly today! We are NOT a shithole.

My country is beautiful. People are very friendly and nice. We are peaceful, developing, hard-working and looking forward to a better future. If that’s what President Trump calls “shithole”, fuck it, I will take that any day.

Allow me to introduce you to Rwanda. Believe it or not, we have so much to offer to the world.

The beauty of Rwandan cities on one.
  1. Best coffee and Tea in the world

If you drink coffee every morning, you probably drink some of ours more often than you think. Every year, Rwandan coffee wins some of the best international awards for best quality coffee. So, we supply you with the best coffee.

Rwandan coffee, the best in the world.

2. Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

Our capital city, Kigali, is one of the cleanest and the most organized cities in the world. In 2017, The United Nations nominated Kigali as the most beautiful city in Africa.

One of the popular roundabouts in Kigali Rwanda
Downtown Kigali, Rwanda

3. Environmental Sustainability

We are very green and friendly to the environment. Our country was the first nation in the world to ban plastic bags. Yes, since 2008, plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda. We like to maintain the greenness of our beautiful landscape.

Public Park in Kigali, Rwanda

When you come to visit us, at your arrival to the airport, we replace your plastic bags with bio-degradable reusable paper bags. It is amazing! Check out this British journalist story at the Rwandan Airport ( Credit: The Guardian UK).

British journalist experience with plastic bags

4. Most welcoming nation in the world.

Regardless of your nationality, you do not need prior visa application to come to our country. If you want to come to Rwanda tomorrow, pack your bags and come.

Rwandan Immigration and Emigration Services Poster of 2018, inviting everybody to come to Rwanda

We will issue it to you at your arrival with no hustle; 90-day visa at all Rwandan borders and airports if you are African; and 30–60 days if you are from other continents. It costs $ 30 dollars and takes only 3–5 minutes.

In times where many countries are closing and tightening up their borders, we are opening ours to the world, and leading the way and showing the world how it should be done.

5. Best vacation spot in the world and definitely best Safari Experience

In this 2018 year alone, Rwanda was ranked number 11 out of 18 best places to visit in 2018 by various international tourism agencies ( Vogue, New York Times, The Telegraph, CNN Travel, Huffington Post).

If you want to visit the rare Mountain gorilla in their natural habitat, we have all you will ever need for an amazing experience. Check out my cousin’s photos the last time we were there.

My cousin photo with mother gorilla and her twin babies in the back

Rwanda has 50% of all the mountain gorillas in the world. They are endangered species, so we do a great job at preserving these treasures. You will have the best experience touring and visiting the amazing creatures.

My Photo posing in front of a 500 lb silverback gorilla

We have many well-known national and international parks for all sorts of animals. Akagera National Park, and Nyungwe National Park, being the most popular.

Zebras at the Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park

Whatever you need to relax, we probably have it. Whether you want to do some water sports related activities, chill by the lake shores, sipping on the beer and good food on a beautiful sunny day, we will satisfy your vacation needs for sure.

Canopy Walk 300 ft at the top of the largest tropical forest in Africa. Nyungwe National Park
Brochette, potatoes and beer. My favorite combination at the bars!
Amazing landscape and scenery at Lake Burera overseeing the Volcanoes in the Northern Province

6. Gender Equality and Respect for women

The key reason for Rwandan success ( after 1994 genocide) is attributed to promoting gender equality. Giving men and women equal opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge. Women have not only embraced the opportunities, they have taken it to another level in all sectors of the economy in both private and public sector.

Like many countries around the world, we used to be a very patriarchal society before 1994. But the government decided to change that in order to integrate everybody into the new Rwandan economy. The population is 50% men, 50% women, so it made perfect sense to include women at all levels of decision making both in government and business.

Women are very respected in my country. They deserve respect and appreciation for what they have done for our country. Today, Rwanda is the first nation in the world have to have a higher representation of women in the parliament; 64%!

Oh, one last thing! Unlike President Trump, Rwandan men don’t go around harassing women and grabbing their genitals! Who does that?

The list can go on and on. I have used my country, Rwanda, as an example, but every single nation of Africa has so much to offer to the world.

Now, put yourself in my shoes and imagine what is it like to be told that your country is a “shithole” by the president of another country; the so-called leader of the free world. Meanwhile, you get to enjoy this luxury every day, week, month, and all year long. Hey, I will take it!

I can only hope people have learned their lesson and won’t vote for him in 2020.

Anyway, for more about my home country of Rwanda, I have written two posts in the past describing more about more interesting facts and details. Check them out below!

10 Amazing facts about Rwanda and reasons to visit in 2018 ( Medium Post)

Dear World, Rwanda Today is NOTHING like the movie Hotel-Rwanda ( Quora Post)

Thank you so much for reading my reflection on the President’s dubious remarks about African countries. When haters go LOW, you have to go HIGH, killing them with love, kindness, and compassion.

If you liked this article and would like to get notifications whenever I publish a new article, subscribe to my blog.  It would help me to grow my audience and allow me to reach more people around the world. As always,  I pride myself on bringing you the best quality content. Quality over quantity!!

Peace!

Didier Champion

Bonus Pictures:

Aerial Photo of the most expensive building in Africa! The Kigali Convention Center
All women flight crew, Captain and her co-pilot of the RwandAir, the national air carrier and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Very rare to see elsewhere, but not in Rwanda.

My personal story on how I overcame anxiety and depression in Graduate School.

This happened to me when I was doing my Ph.D. studies in graduate school. In general, I am a very strong dude, emotionally and physically. I had my fair share of tough times in my childhood. I grew up very poor, selling sugar canes in the street of Kigali and doing many other odd jobs to survive the harsh life. Never could I have imagined that after I broke my way out of poverty, and was living and enjoying the good life, that I could have other issues. Despite all the poverty and other challenges early in my life, I had never gotten depressed before. Honestly, I did not believe that It could ever happen to me. The only time depression got hold of me was this incidence I am about to share with you. I was in my third year of my graduate work. It could have been worse but I am very fortunate I acted upon it quickly in the early stages. My life could have been miserable by now.

Admitting to yourself that you are depressed is a big Challenge

Acknowledging to yourself that you are stressed out or depressed is not very easy. It is extremely tough. In my case, if I did not have my girlfriend to constantly tell me that I was changing negatively, acting hostile, and all other stuff, I would not have come to terms with it. I was so proud of myself. I thought I was a tough nerd and could not even begin to comprehend why I had early symptoms of depression. The most difficult thing about depression is:

  • Admitting to yourself that you are depressed.
  • Explaining to your family and close friends why you are depressed.

Now, deciding to seek help is even a bigger challenge. You ask yourself different questions:

  • Do I really have time for a counseling session? I am already busy with my work.
  • You keep telling yourself to relax a bit and maybe wait for the feeling to go away after some time.
  • You talk to fellow grad students and you get the feeling that everybody is just as worried about their work as you are. In the end, many people ignore the feeling, get over the feelings or they get crashed.

Depression is a big issue in graduate schools. The most recent 2017 statistics show that 1 in 2 Ph.D. students experience at least 4 symptoms related to some level of psychological distress during their career. The numbers are worse in science and engineering graduate programs both in the United States and Europe. As a graduate student, I encourage you to take care of your mental and physical health. At the end of the day, your wellness and health come before anything else. If you have any of these symptoms on a regular basis, talk to somebody and seek help immediately.

 

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The ugly truth is that unless you have evaluated yourself, find out the cause of the feelings, and come to terms with the consequences, it is very hard to make any meaningful progress towards your mental health. That is why depression is a big problem in graduate schools; especially in the STEM fields. As a graduate student, life can be lonely. Work gets busy. You find yourself teaching courses, doing research, presenting your work, writing papers, and little time for your personal life stuff.

This is why I am openly sharing my story for the first time today. Maybe you are in the same situation or know somebody who needs help. The most important thing is to know that you are not alone; that you are not weird; and that there is a way to get back to your full wellness and health. Anyway, this is my story. Hope you find it educational.

After finishing my bachelor’s degree in Physics, I got admitted into a Ph.D. program in Mechanical Engineering. I am not a genius, but I was a good student. Self-motivated, strong work ethic, and many other qualities of an above average student.

  1. In my first year of graduate school, I was on a teaching assistantship, which is very common at my university. Taking my coursework, teaching sophomore level courses in our department. By the end of the first semester, I had found a research professor to work with and was starting to learn about the research I was going to do. The first year went well. I struggled a bit in class, got a 3.0 GPA ( lowest I had ever gotten), but it was very manageable. Got put on academic probation, but in the 2nd semester, my GPA jumped to 3.70, and I was back on track.
  2. In my second year, I was both on 50% TA and 50% research. I immersed myself in the research. Loved what our lab was doing. Loved the colleagues I was working with, and for the most part, it was just fine. The workload was intense, combining my grad school coursework, teaching an undergrad course, as a teaching assistant every semester, grading homework, tests, and exams; the regular busy life of a Ph.D. student. During this year, I passed my preliminary exams, both written and oral, which was a huge confidence booster for me.

Lab work at University ( don’t laugh at my pink lab coat please, haha)

During the summers, I worked hard to catch up on my research. In any holidays, I would go to West-Africa, which is where our air quality measurements research work was based. I would travel about 3–4 times to Ghana and back in the States; collecting data; training our field team back in Ghana, and staying in touch with them to resolve any field issues and all that.

Above that, I still found time to enjoy Colorado, taking advantage of the amazing landscape and scenery around the state. I am very big on outdoor activities such as climbing mountains, skiing, hiking, water sports activities and many other sorts of stuff.

My real passion: Outdoor activities on top of 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado, Stand up water paddling in CO, and canopy walk at the largest tropical forest in Rwanda, Africa.

Financially, I was living just like any other Ph.D. students. Living from paycheck to paycheck earning about $ 1,800 during the school year, and $3,500 during the summers, working full-time. I was very satisfied with that. No problem!

My research advisor was a great advisor, the best one any Ph.D. student could hope for. Very helpful, understanding, extremely intelligent, hardworking and overall a wonderful advisor to have. Whenever I was hanging out with other Ph.D. students, they used to tell me how lucky I was to have my advisor. Honestly, hearing their stories with their “so-called advisors” made me appreciate what a wonderful advisor I had. We had two major fundings from the EPA and NSF, so I was not worried about not having the funding or any financial issue for my work. He was already “tenured”, which is a big deal in academia.

Somewhere along my second year, I noticed that the research world was not a life I would enjoy living for the rest of my professional career. I projected my life, 5–10 years, after earning my Ph.D., my prospects to secure a research position at a good university, working my tail off to secure a tenure-track position, writing proposals every semester, competing with professors for fundings, and all that. Research professors are some of busiest people I have ever met. That kind of lifestyle did not look attractive to me. I oftentimes remember emailing my advisor at like 3: 00 am in the morning and he would get back to me right away at 3:05 am, what?

 I always wonder how he did it. I oftentimes would reflect on his hard work. I know this is urgent, but you could have waited until the morning, right? But it did not matter as he loved his work. Loved what he did. No matter how busy he was, he just worked quite hard. At one point, he had 5-PhD students with different projects, 2-masters students, and a few undergraduates he was supervising. My advisor was a champ. 

What I noticed was that my advisor had found his real passion; teaching students and doing environmental science and engineering research work. So, I knew deep down that I had to find something that I was really passionate about. I know myself that if I like and am passionate about something, I will put my efforts into it. Unfortunately, halfway through the program, P.h.D work did not seem as a good fit for me. So, I knew that it was time for me to reflect hard and think about what career was going to be next for me.

I told myself that although life as a professor was not for me, out of respect for my advisor, I would finish the Ph.D. program, but then branch out to industry first to make lots of $$. Then, maybe later in my 50’s, find some university to teach at, giving students a hands-on and practical experience from the private sector points of view. It was a solid plan, and I decided to stick to it.

Beginning my third year, work got busier and busier. We had just published our first paper of the project, of which, I was a contributing author. I was also working on my second paper, as the primary author, shuffling between presenting our work to conferences, traveling to Ghana for work, and much other related work stuff.

At the same time, outside of work, I was trying to date, starting off a brand new “long-distance” relationship, traveling and exploring Colorado/Ghana whenever I could, doing fun activities I enjoy doing.

Petting a crocodile in Ghana, West-Africa. This pond has about 200 crocodiles in it

The bottom line was that to my regular friends, life was going well. I seemed to be having too much fun. I used to post all my travel updates and adventures on Facebook and my friends would email me asking how I was doing all these stuff back to back. However, inside of me, I was not happy overall. My work life had taken over. I was probably pulling in between 12–15 hours of work each day from Monday to Friday. All in the name of finish up my graduate work, and not “disappointing” my advisor, who had invested so much in me for two years. Thank goodness, I would take it easy on weekends though! to relax a bit and enjoy life.

Remember, once your plan is to go work in the industry, you do not really need a Ph.D. If you are a good student with an independent/strong work ethic, a masters degree would set you apart to a good start, in any R&D areas, whether you want to go to national labs or private companies.

At the peak of my depression, I felt under-achieved. That I was not doing enough. At some point, I would even feel like a loser. No matter how hard I worked, work never seemed to slow down. Each week/month, there was a new presentation to prepare for, new collaborators to meet up with, new major update/progress report to give to my two advisors. All that workload piled up inside of me, without a good reason to stay on course. And then came the ego; the worst of it all;

  1. What would my peers say If I drop out? that I am a quitter!?  fuck that, I am no quitter.
  2. What about my advisor, and friends? All that nonsense and worrying about other people’s perceptions of me piled up and made my life much more miserable inside.
  3. My relationship was terrible: I was “ verbally” very hostile to my girlfriend.
    1. Accusing her to want too much affection/time from me, and to waste some of my time. Although all she wanted was just 30 min to one hour per day to talk and to stay connected.
    2. She would tell me to that I was being too hard on myself. Trying to do too much, but I did not listen. She was the only person who knew what I was going through really! She would tell me to leave the lab by midnight, but I stayed longer than that on several occasions. ( P.S.: I am very effective and efficient when nobody is around, so I work late at night very often).
    3. We were on the verge of breaking up, which would have been terrible. She is just a sweetheart. Recently, we just got engaged! She stuck with me and wanted to help me out, but I was terrible at receiving help.
    4. She would tell me to go seek help, talk to somebody, but I would tell her that it was a grad school thing, very common for every Ph.D. student.

Then, it finally hit me that the only reason I had decided to stay was really to not disappoint my advisor, who had helped me quite a bit. How stupid, right? Here I was busting my ass off for the wrong reasons as far I could tell. I gave it a good month or two to think about it, planned out a good exit strategy, and waited for a good stopping point to leave and allow another Ph.D. student take the rest of the work. Below were my decisions and conclusions;

  1. Get your masters degree. I got it! I even went to graduation in the middle of winter in December. In my program, it was totally okay to get your masters degree along the way as long as you had completed all the necessary coursework.
  2. Finish off your work and publish your paper. This process took me longer than anticipated, but publishing in the best journal in your field is not an easy process. But I finally did. I am a published author, or should I say, primary author.
  3. Tell my advisor ahead of time, to allow enough time to hire another student. I also did that! Although he would have wanted more time, I made sure that the work I was already working was going to get published. In addition, I offered to stay in touch whenever they need something from me. It was the best I could do, and I kept my word, thankfully!

Finally, One day in November 2015 ( after coming back from a conference in Ghana), I decided that it was time to tell my advisor. We were finishing up the fall semester ( 5th semester in grad school), about to go to Christmas break. At our weekly, one on one meetings, I told him that I wanted to take the next spring semester off. I explained the whole situation that I wanted to be off-grid for some time, doing some soul searching and was possibly contemplating a possible career change.

Luckily, after a while, he noticed I was very serious and committed. He noticed that I had given it some serious thoughts and there was no point to convince me to stay. That November 2015, I told him that I will take the spring semester off. We agreed that I will give him a call informing him my final decision by March/April 2016. That way, he has two months to look for another student, by summer 2016, in case I was not coming back. Having a lot of experience in academia, he told me that it was highly unlikely that I was coming back. He facilitated and approved “my leave of absence” for the Spring 2016 semester.

I promise him that this was very personal and I had to be away from the research world for a bit. That December 2015, he allowed me to even go to the graduation ceremony for my master’s degree. Had fun for a few hours and came back to the lab same day to finish off the paper I was writing. Most of the data analysis was done, and literature review of my citation sources was finished, so I was writing the first draft of my paper.

My not-so-exciting graduation picture in the middle of winter!

Fast forward in April 2016, after securing another new adventure for myself, I made the toughest call I have ever made. The toughest decision I have ever made in my life so far. Telling my “ soon to be” former boss that I had found another opportunity and was not coming back. He wished me the best of luck. We talked about how I was going to facilitate the new Ph.D. student coming in. Finished off my paper and getting it published. Handing over all the raw data from our measurements, and being available whenever I was needed. It was tough to make that call, but boy, I was very relieved afterward!

This past summer of 2017, the paper finally got published with the help of a former co-worker. We are co-primary authors along with many other researchers in the group. The best thing is that the paper has been such a great hit, got published in the Environmental Science &Technology ( ES& T) journal, the best one in our field. My co-author took the analysis to another level, with better math lab plots and graphics, which honestly made the paper better than it would have been if I was the only primary author. Today, the paper is making a lot of buzz among our peers, in our research area.

 

Grad School Paper 2018

My last paper in ES&T. My last published paper in grad school & probably the last.

Myself, I am as happy as I have ever been. My work is going great! A month ago,  I just got engaged to the then-girlfriend, who has been with me through thick and thin, from the beginning. My life is just going fantasticI am now thinking of a possible career change as a motivational speaker, combining engineering and finance. I am very grateful for my fiancee and the decision I took to leave the research world and prioritize my overall mental and physical health first.

My heartfelt message to all the Graduate Students in similar situations!

Fellow grad students,

  1. Deciding to quit something you already started is very difficult. I have been in those shoes. I know how it feels. Even today, sometimes, despite how good all things turned out, the thoughts of waiting and finishing up the program crosses my mind way too often than I would like to admit. Can you believe it?
  2. There is nothing wrong deciding to change directions or to take another path when you notice that you are are in the wrong one. You are not a quitter. You just discovered another path. Get over it, honestly!
  3. Whenever you decide to change directions, have a plan. Think about it carefully, analyze it and execute on it if it fits your future goals and plans.
  4. Grad schools are not going anywhere. If you are really passionate, you can go back anytime and complete your studies. Of course, you might have to start over, but it is totally fine.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t compare yourself to your peers, too much!
  6. Remember, you are not a loser. After all, you are in the top echelon of the most educated people the world has to offer. You are in the top 1%, probably. In my programs for example, when we were admitted into the Ph.D. program, only 23 students were given admission in the Ph.D. program out of 230 applicants. Obviously, you cannot make the cut if you are not smart, hardworking, and motivated.
  7. Whenever you are struggling, talk to somebody. Once a month, we used to gather up all the students at some local pub, and bitch about how the Ph.D. student life was tough. People would talk their advisors and the issues they were having in their line of work, and much other bullshit. In a way, it was very liberating to hear that we were all in the same boat, riding the wave together. Haha! It really did help a bit.
  8. Seek help early. I am glad that I discovered my issues quite early. Had a caring girlfriend, willing to hear/help me out. That made me act very quickly before it was too late. I think I was still in early stages, but it could have gone worse, definitely.
  9. If it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth it. I have tried to apply this motto everywhere in everything I do. I love to have fun in whatever I am doing. It has worked wonders for me.

Best of luck to all the Ph.D. students out there,

I have so much respect for you. Peace!

Sincerely,

Didier Champion

References

How Academia made me the most depressed I have ever been ( Dailydot.com, Jan. 2016)

Half of UC Berkeley STEM graduate students depressed ( The Science Mag, May 2015)

This is your mind on grad school ( Berkeley Science Review, 2012)

Grad school fosters depression; How to fight it ( Scienceblogs.com, Feb. 2009)

 

One-Way Trip to colonize Mars? How realistic is the Mars-One Project?

 

Mars One project 2017

Mars One Ambitious Timeline and missions to MARS

 

  • Mars One (Official Website) is a non-profit private organization HQ’ed in Haarlem, Holland (CEO and founder, Bans Lanslop & CTO, chief technical officer, Arno Wielders). Their plan is to organize a one-way trip of humans to Mars by 2027. As of 2017, they have selected about 100 finalists from a pool of 20,000 applicants, who will be potential explorers on MARS.
  • They estimate that MARS ONE project will require a budget of $ 6.0 Billion dollars and they plan to raise the funds from investments, sponsorship, and broadcasting rights.  This project is comprised of a wonderful group of people with a big drive for space exploration, an essential part of human survival over the years. Throughout our existence, exploration has been an important part of how humans have survived and maintained life on Earth.

Testing, Planning, and Timeline 

  • Testing will be done in Iceland to mimic the conditions of Mars. Iceland is the best place that comes close to Mars conditions especially the topography and soil content in the country. They plan to get there by using Space X, Falcon Heavy, which is scheduled to land on Mars surface by 2026. From leaving the Earth to Mars surface, it will take about 7-months to make it to MARS. Mars one Project plans to travel in 2027. This means that it will have to depend on Space X’s Falcon Heavy, to even come close to traveling to Mars.
  • Critics from the Experts:
    • NASA scientists and engineers are very skeptical about the timeline and how qualified Mars One Project can accomplish their mission. Mostly, NASA thinks that they are and will not ready at all by 2027.
    • NASA thinks that there should be a choice to come back should explorers want to at some point of their exploration. However, the CEO and the CTO of Mars One Project objects to that idea that it would simply add costs and be counterproductive. Their project aim is to colonize Mars by allowing first settlers to explore and live on Mars forever. They are simply not backing up from their projects.
    • According to the management of the project, the most important thing is to explain and give all the details to the finalists describing all the risks associated with the project so that they can make final decisions about a one-way trip to Mars.

Challenges ahead of this ambitious project

 

Space Mission to Mars 2017

Conditions on Planet Mars

 

  • Conditions on Mars: 
    • MARS has no known water location (as of October 2017), no food, extremely lower temperature ( -63 degrees Fahrenheit average ), low gravity (half of earth’s gravity) and extremely low pressures. Explorers will have to find a way to deal with all these conditions and right now there is not enough knowledge and technology to deal with all the above obstacles. Settling on Mars is going to be a tough challenge because of high levels of U. V. radiations, which can cause cancer to first settlers and shorten their lifetime there.
    • Key to survival: Access to water to sustain life. There is also no oxygen for breathing and they would have to find water so that they can decompose H2O into O2 molecules for breathing. All of these important essentials are still missing and unknown even though the project is 10-years away from launching supposedly.
    • In order to live on Mars, we would need huge advancement in planetary science and genetic engineering to sustain life on Mars. They would also need to warm up Mars to make it habitable.
      • Nuclear option (pump lots of CO2 into Mars atmosphere and wait for it to warm up from -80 degrees Fahrenheit to -25 degrees Fahrenheit).
      • Create a thick atmosphere of CO2 to block UV radiations from the sun and find some form of H2O.

 

Mars One Project Set up 2017

Setting up a human colony on Mars by the Mars One Project

 

  • Overall Assessment (As of October 2017): 
    • This is a very ambitious project and will require lots of funds, technology, and lots of stakeholders to take this project from a dream to a reality.
    • Funding: This project has to raise about $ 6.0 Billion USD, and they have to come up with funding sources. Can Investors, sponsors, and TV broadcasting rights fill the $ 6.00 Billion dollar gap? I don’t think they will.
    • Relying on Space X: Mars One will need Falcon Heavy ( Space X rocket) to transport humans and their gears to Mars. Without Space X, no travel to Mars. Space X plans to have Falcon Heavy ready to land to Mars surface in 2026. Can they achieve this? and even if they did,  will Mars One have enough resources to go the year after? At this point, it does not look like they will have them.
    • One-way mission: The project leaders are quite fanatic and honestly a bit absurd. Why send humans first without an opportunity to return? Why not start with robots and let them do preliminary work such as finding water sources and locations. That way, humans who follow can have a higher probability of succeeding? Do Robotic exploring first and then humans later.
  • NASA Mars Mission 2017

    NASA’s realistic approach and timeline to MARS Exploration mission

    • NASA Skepticism: NASA is the only institution that has successfully landed on Mars Surface with “Curiosity Rover”. Mars One should listen more if NASA tells them that they are not ready from a logical, ethical, and practical standpoint. Mars-One targets to have 8-colonists by 2030. Is this a suicide mission as NASA predicts? We can only count on the future to see how Mars One project goes.
    • From my point of view, this is an extremely ambitious project and they are NOT ready yet. They are very fanatic and don’t seem to have all the needs nailed down to turn this “dream project” into a reality. Maybe they have some serious inspiration, but I highly doubt they will ever make it. If they do a good job, they will send robots there. You would have to be quite #dumb to go on a one-way mission to Mars without a choice of returning. Mars-One 100 finalists seem to have (partially) decided to take on this challenge, but I do not think that they know what they are doing. Lot of them are not even astronauts. They will have to learn and train to be astronauts. As one finalist says, their pride to be “first settlers on Mars” will override any pain. Essentially, claiming that we have one life and it seems to them that it is worth it to use it in order to make this world a better place.
    • For more information about Mars One Project, see their official website and connects with their social media to follow up on their updates. The Guardian published a good article about Mars one Project.
  • For more excellent information on Space Explorations and NASA missions to Mars, check sources below.

 

 

Bitcoin: Is Digital Cryptocurrency rising or is it a bubble?

 

BitCoin 2017

Bitcoin World. Digital cryptocurrency. Is this the currency of the 21st Century or just another upcoming bubble? Combining Internet of Things, technology, and encryption of your personal data.

 

Bitcoin has been making lots of appearances in the news lately. Some people are against it and think it is a complete scam while others think it will be the future of currency around the world in the 21st-century digital revolution. I have spent some time researching about what it is and how it works. Overall, it looks very promising and interesting. Although I still don’t understand it, I like the idea of allowing people to exchange goods and services without relying on third-party banks to facilitate their transactions.; partially or completely phasing out banks and governments.

Will Banks and governments allow it to work? Only the future will tell.

Prominent business CEO’s have publicly opposed to Bitcoin and are very convinced that it is a fraud. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, thinks Bitcoin will blow up and advises people to stay out of it. However, other prominent business CEO’s, who used to be prominent skeptics, have just started investing in Bitcoin. Mark Cuban, another billionaire, just started investing in Bitcoin, which shows that there is potential for this digital currency to work in the future.

For any currency to operate, three main things are very essential.

  1. Trust: People who use the currency have to be convinced that it is worth using it to exchange with the price of goods and services. Right now, Bitcoin is a currency on the internet. As long as people think it is valuable, it will still work. The moment that trust is gone, Bitcoin becomes worthless and all people who own it, lose their money. This is why Bitcoin is extremely volatile, which scares the banking industry.
  2. Financial insurance/backing. Other currencies such as $$ or euros are insured by the central banks around the world. In the States, Federal Reserve ( The Fed) ensures the public that whenever any bank fails, The Fed steps in to reimburse people’s money in checkings and savings accounts. This creates trust with the people and keeps the banking system intact.  In Europe, the ECB ( European Central Bank) plays the same function as the Fed in the States.
  3. Quality and quantity of the money supply. With our regular currency system, central banks regulate how much money can be in circulation and they do their best to make sure that nobody else can print out ” hard cash” except them. Bitcoin has this provision but since it is a digital crypto-currency, any hacking or modification of the source code can cause real danger without a central regulator to avoid “fake bitcoins”.

The main issue with Bitcoin is that it lacks the financial backing from any central banking institution. Thus, the moment people don’t believe in the system or some cybersecurity issue ( hacking, source code error, etc) happens, Bitcoin can easily lose its value overnight, which is extremely dangerous and unsustainable.

What is Bitcoin and how did it come about? Banking on Bitcoin, Netflix series

Bitcoin was invented by somebody who called himself, Satoshi Nakamoto but chose to remain anonymous. To this point, nobody knows exactly who the real Satoshi is. The idea of Bitcoin was conceived and programmed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The inventor, who happens to be a computer scientist interested in cryptography, was frustrated by the failure of banks in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and thought he had a way out. His main purpose was to provide an alternative medium of exchange for goods and services without relying on central governments and banks to issue currency in form of money.

In its infancy, BitInstant was one of the popular companies transferring bitcoin currency into regular dollar money. In the end, the company got into troubles after it was discovered that BitInstant was facilitating drug dealers to sell drugs online and helping drug lords to convert bitcoin money into US dollars. The company’s CEO, Charlie Shrem, went to jail for two years, but he is out of prison ( as of now).

Bitcoin Cash 2017

Translating bitcoin cash into regular cash. A way that traders are using to make $$ right now.

At some point, there was a Bitcoin Center in NEW York City, right in front of Wall Street. This center along with another prominent company, MT. GOX acted as Bitcoin exchange, where people were buying and selling their bitcoin values with real money. In its original source code, interestingly enough, there are only 21 million bitcoins, but each bitcoin can be divided into one million pieces as described by the sole-programmer in the code. To this point, nobody knows who owns the source code. Another key concern for Bitcoin due to hacking. What if some genius hacker discovers the source code, and figures out to increase or decrease the number of bitcoins as they see fit to their interest. What if they wipe the whole system down all-together? The Bitcoin system can collapse overnight. The issue of volatility is of a great concern in Bitcoin exchanges around the world. The CEO of MT. GOX, Mark Karpeles, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for losing about 500 million dollars in Bitcoin transactions.

Challenges with Bitcoin Industry, now and in the future.

Regulation and dealing with failures: 

  1. The New York administration issued Bitlicense application, a set of regulations, intended to regulate the industry. However, big players in the industry disagreed with them and found them too restrictive and overwhelming. This Bitlicense prompted Bitcoin Center to close down its operation in New York City. Luckily, the industry is still alive and well. Its future is both challenging and interesting at the same time.  See the share price of bitcoin from 2012 to 2017 ( graph below).
Bitcoin Share over the years Price 2017

Growing from a nonexistent currency in 2012/2013 from $0 per share to about $ 4,000 per share. Bitcoin is on the move. Wallstreet and Silicon Valley are rallying behind this mysterious currency.

 

  1. When MT. GOX Inc, one of the companies handling more than 80% of all Bitcoin exchanges, filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after losing half a trillion dollars. This was 6% of all bitcoins in circulation. Lots of people “lost trust” in bitcoin, but the industry has rebounded back its good days as shown by the graph above.
  2. Dealing with Banks and governments
    1. Bitcoin Center Foundation was set up to address potential issues with using bitcoin. Abiding by regulations, educating the public and making sure that the bitcoin platform is not a safe heaven for money laundering from the drug industry.
    2. Banks and governments are getting interesting in the Bitcoin platform and it seems like they would want to control it if it emerges an alternative to regular currency ( dollars, euros, pounds, etc). One would assume that they will probably fight against it especially because it will take away some of the financial power that they currently have.

Bitcoin share price 2017

Bitcoin Share Price starting from $1,000.00 in January 2017 to $4,000.00 in October 2017. Is this a bubble or just massive interest in Bitcoin?

Overall Assessment of Bitcoin and its future potential  

Digital Cryptocurrency is going to be involved with the Internet of Things and the next technological revolution that we are going through. We started with hard cash, then electronic cash, and the future will be some form of digital cryptocurrency for sure. This progress is inevitable and it is just a matter of time before cryptocurrency takes over maybe. The good news is that Bitcoin is opensource, so everybody can use the technology and modify it as they see fit to facilitate the needs of customers. This is a block-chain technology that can be incorporated into WallStreet. Governments and Banks want to be in charge and control the system. Wallstreet and Silicon Valley are already embracing it. The government has stepped up with regulations to monitor the system. Silicon Valley and venture capitalists are backing it with their money to make the system better. In this digital and personal data revolution we are experiencing, I have no doubt that some form of digital cryptocurrency is the future of money that people around the world will use to trade with each other, eliminating heavy reliance on banks and central banks. Can they allow it to flourish? or Will they still want to control it? Only the future will tell. 

If you liked this article, share it with your friends. Subscribe to my blog if you want to get a notification whenever a new publication is out. Thank you

Your finance nerd, Didier Champion!

References

JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, on Bitcoin: Bank executives betting on Bitcoin shorting and betting on the failure of Bitcoin.

Mark Cuban, billionaire, and CEO of Dallas Mavericks, investing in Bitcoin: Rich business putting the money where they see potential

Netflix documentary on Bitcoin: Banking on Bitcoin: A comprehensive and a good overview of how Bitcoin came to exist on Netflix.

Bitcoin Center Official website in New York Center: This website will give you a good overview of what is going with Bitcoin around all the exchanges around the world.

MT. GOX, financial troubles and losing a half trillion dollars, big setbacks for the Bitcoin Industry.

Bitcoin Share Price since its inception: Share Prices and trading.

Dave Ramsey on Bitcoin system 

What is Fintech? Early Bitcoin founders along with the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto ( Nick Szabo & Hal Finney)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a pride knowing that my vote counts too!

As a 27-year old, this was my 2nd time participating and voting in the Rwandan presidential election. My first time was in August 2010, and my voting station was in Little Rock, AR in the United States. 7-years later, I voted at Kaiserslautern, Germany. There is a sense of pride that comes with casting your vote and knowing that your voice matters as a Rwandan, regardless of your physical location. I cannot describe a sense of belonging I felt knowing that I am one of the first Rwandans, probably in the top 1% to cast their vote for the candidate who is going to be the president of Rwanda for the next 7-years.

During my time here on earth, there have been 3-presidential elections. The first one was in August 2013, and back then, I was just a little boy. I was just starting out middle school and could barely understand the seriousness of what was happening.  The second election was in August 2010, and I had just finished my first year of college. Although I was mature enough to know what was going on and voted with pride, I don’t think I understood the seriousness that comes with voting and choosing the president of Rwanda as much as I do now. A few days ago, when I voted, I can tell you that for my third election, I understand why I have to vote and what is at stake whenever it comes to voting for the president of Rwanda.

  • Knowing that I am voting for a candidate who is going to lead Rwanda for the next 7-years, and continue to sustain Rwanda economic development in the years to come.
  • Knowing that I am choosing for a candidate who will maintain peace, security, and continue to ensure our nation’s sustainable development.
  • Knowing that I am voting for a leader who will inspire the young generations, lead Rwandans by example, and encourage them to stay united, work together, think big as Rwandans deal with challenges ahead.

My impressions of the 2017 presidential election in Rwanda

The only presidential candidate who fulfilled my conditions was none other than President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. Whether you agree or disagree with him on running his third time, what matters most is he is liked by the majority of Rwandans. He has changed the game. He is a visionary leader, and a great CEO of Rwanda, Inc. Under his leadership, Rwanda has gone from being a failed state, politically and economically to a stable and peaceful country, in what the international community calls an “economic miracle“. The truth is that there was no miracle performed, but simply Rwandans inspired by their leader, who came together to build a new nation, a united and peaceful Rwanda.

 

Basically, when his time was getting close, he was asked by the shareholders ( Rwandan people) to stay and continue to be their CEO ( president). Through a national referendum and a constitutional process that took about two years, the shareholders agreed to extend his term and he graciously accepted the offer to continue leading the company ( country ) again. Whether you agree or disagree with him, there is no question that he is loved by the majority of Rwandans. That is the reason why he was able to attract huge crowds of people and won the election by a landslide ( 98.63% of votes).

As a young voter, I am so proud of the participation and the enthusiasm of young voters in this 2017-presidential election.  Previously, young voters used neglect voting and would stay home on the election day. But this time, it was different. All of the sudden, voting became a “cool” and “class” act. I was very surprised to see all social media (Facebook, Instagram, and others) filled with photos of young Rwandans showing their ink, proving that they had cast their vote. The hashtags such as #RwandaDecides were trending all over twitter. This is very important and promising for the future of Rwanda. According to the Rwandan National Electoral Commission, 45% of registered voters were young people under 35. In addition, 26% of all voters were first time-voters. The more involved the youth is, the more they grow up paying much attention to what is happening in their country and wanting to become involved and participating in their nation’s building.

Rwanda has come so far, and every Rwandan should be proud of our amazing country. We voted peacefully ( no fighting, no rooting, no fear of businesses closing down in the wake of elections). In the end, the Rwandan people made their voices heard loud and clear. I am hoping that the next 7-years will bring more prosperity to all of the Rwandans, working together, and striving for excellence in what we do. #RwandaDecides #ProudCitizen

 

Rwanda 02

The Kigali Convention Center, currently the flagship of the nation’s capital. It is a sign that Rwanda is ready for business and represents progress.

Rwanda Business 2017

Kigali-Centre Ville or downtown Kigali.

Rwanda 10

The nation’s capital at night. It never sleeps.

Thank you so much for this reading this piece. I hope you have enjoyed it. Consider subscribing to my blog in order to stay up-to-date whenever I publish a new piece. Feel free to share with your friends if you think they would enjoy it too.

Until then, much love and respect.

Didier Champion

Thank you

 

 

 

 

 

Articles about Rwanda

  1. Rwanda: An economic miracle.( Sources: Talent to Africa)
  2. Rwanda: The unfinished miracle ( Sources: Nytimes.com)
  3. Talk Africa: Rwanda’s Economic Miracle ( Youtube: CCTV Africa)
  4. Rwanda the Heart of Africa ( Youtube): Rwanda U never Seen on TV
  5. Welcome to the beautiful Rwanda 2017 ( Rwanda the heart of Africa)
  6. Rwanda: Africa’s success story or authoritarian state? ( Al Jazeera Youtube)
  7. Talk to Al Jazeera ( Youtube): Paul Kagame, Rwanda has its own issues.
  8. To use on my blog (Rwanda the heart of Africa): Nice Promotional video
  9. Kagame seeks lasting economic miracle for Rwanda ( Source: Financial Times)
  10. Rwanda’s economic miracle ( source: national review)
  11. Business Opportunities in Rwanda ( Source: World Bank)

 

 

The Truth Always HURTS! President Macron Harsh Truth on African Development Issues

I have seen so many reactions from different people about the response that President Macron gave on the best way to develop the continent of Africa at a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to watch it, especially if you are African or care about international development in Africa in general.

Many Africans accused President Macron of being racist, sexist, and patronizing when he answered the journalist question about what would the Marshall Plan for Africa look like and what role France would play in that. Below is my 2-cents about what I learned from his response and a detailed analysis of all the ideas outlined.

  • Idea 1. To develop Africa, you need more than a “Marshall Plan”.

President Macron says that Africa needs to fix some of her main issues first before asking more aid. The main issues stated are:

  1. Political instability and unstable governments.
  2. Lack of cooperation among countries with regards to illegal trafficking of people, leading to mass migration, drugs, and illegal arms included.
  3. National fundamentalism and terrorism.
  4. Poor family planning.

His opinion on the Marshall Plan

  • For the Marshall Plan to work, you need to ensure durable peace and security first.
  • Marshall Plan will not and cannot work for African countries if the above issues are not resolved or reduced to a minimum first.

After World War II, Europe was devasted and received the equivalent of about 150 Billion dollars from the United States (adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars) for reconstruction. This plan jump-started the European economy and after a few decades, the European Union and other European countries were back on their feet as a major economic bloc and trade partner of the United States.

Macron points out that throwing money at Africa has never worked and he strongly disagrees with this model that has been used for over 60-years. According to World Economic Forum, Africa has received around 1-Trillion dollars in aid and has done a little to lift African countries out of poverty. Clearly, doing this over again would be a huge mistake. It with will never work.

  • Idea 2. Cooperation between African countries and G20

President Macron acknowledges that peace and development should go together and African countries a shared responsibility to ensure the safety of their population. He points that a few countries who have maintained peace and security have marked outstanding economic growth, which shows opportunities for other countries. Rwanda and Botswana are good examples.

  • Idea 3. What is needed for economic growth and development

On Africa’s side,

  1. Good governance
  2. Eliminating corruption
  3. Democratic and peaceful transfer of power
  4. Better family planning

To ensure sustainable development, we need

  1. To ensure peace and security
  2. Investing in education, and public health system
  3. Infrastructure development
  4. True cooperation between African government and G20 countries
  5. Public and Private sector engagement

Idea 4. Understanding Macron’s response from his background

 

Macron2017

Former Investment Banker, and currently President of France

 

Before becoming President of France, President Macron was an investment banker. What do investment bankers do? They are trained to invest their capital for a profit. Before investing their funds, they have to do a detailed financial risk assessment and hope for a good return on their investment. Unfortunately, the 1-Trillion dollar capital invested on the African continent did not yield much return, and as a good investment banker, he is looking change frauds before investing more of his nation’s capital. Can you really blame him? In my humble opinion, no!

If you were an investment banker and had invested a Trillion dollar capital in Africa and had returned as little or no profit as the aid package given to Africa in 50 years, you would have to be the worst investor in the whole world. In the end, you would not only get fired but also, you would be lucky not to go to jail.

My own assessment

Overall, President Macron gave out the pure harsh truth that many agencies in the international development arena choose to ignore. However, for us Africans, we already know these issues. We deal with them in our daily routines: corruption, insecurity, you name it.

It seems to me that many of my African brothers and sisters seem to be irritated by the rhetoric of President Macron. His “tone” and a few of his “word choice” were simply arrogant. You can sense the complex of superiority that France usually expresses on its former colonies. However, as much as I hate to say it, the underlying message is sadly true. He literally dropped the mic in our faces. What frustrates me, even more, is that we have allowed these countries to talk to us like a parent talking to his/her kids. We have become way too dependent on them, both financially and politically. We better get our acts together before it is too late.

  • How many times do you see African leaders running to France to discuss a peace deal after a presidential election in a lot of former French colonies? We have seen examples in Ivory Coast in 2010, the Republic of Central Africa in 2012, Burkina Faso in 2015, and the list goes on.
  • What message do we send when our African leaders cannot sit together to discuss our own issues but have to run to Paris to plead their cases in front of their master (France)? It is shameful and we have played a big role in feeding their superiority complex.
  • Look at the mass migration that Europe has to deal with because of our African brothers and sisters blindly running to Europe hoping for that “magic” better life? These are the issues, we Africans, should be trying to solve, not relying on the Europeans, ( who have their own issues themselves), “to save us”.

Although I can understand the frustration of many people about a few sentences such as African problems are “civilizational”, whatever that means, or the “7-children per woman statement”, which is untrue and exaggerated in all honesty. I think the overall response is mostly correct and I wish that our leaders would strive to change our continent situation so that NOBODY CAN TAKE IT TO THE STAGE TO HUMILIATE AND LECTURE US ON SOLVING OUR OWN ISSUES.

Honestly, it makes me sick and I am tired of it.

With love and respect,

Didier Champion

Thank you

 

Exploring Luxembourg in the Eyes of a Finance Nerd (Grand-Dutchy of Luxembourg)

After postponing the trip for 3-times, I finally went to visit Luxembourg city, the capital city of Luxembourg. This is a small country situated between France, Belgium, and Germany. It has about 600,000 people and its surface area is approximately 2, 600 square miles.

 

After driving for 2-hours to get there, my plans were to sight-see the city, hang out and relax. To my surprise, I found out that there was a marathon going on upon reaching there. The whole city seemed to be partying and having a good memorial saturday weekend. I did some explorations and visited a few main sites I wanted to check out. I love small cities and Luxembourg made my top list for sure. It is very beautiful topographically and lots of history to explore especially around the summer. What an amazing city, very French and English friendly too.

 

Competitive Economy

The country is visibly very wealthy.  Like any finance nerd with my interests in business and finance, I could not help but learn about how such a small country is able to generate large amounts of money. Luxembourg is the 2nd wealthiest country on Earth when looking at GDP per capita ( the average income per year). After Qatar, Luxembourg comes 2nd with an average GDP per capita of a hundred and two thousand dollars ($ 102, 000.00). However, unlike Qatar, this country is landlocked and does not have any mineral resources.

You have got to admire the people of Luxembourg for their innovation and creativity in the service and financial sectors. Their economy depends on these two sectors heavily. They have attracted remarkable foreign direct investments. Big international banks, and hotels along with the tourism industry have made this small country what is today.

 

  • 86% of the country’s economy comes from the financial and services sector.
  • The European Investment Bank, which is the financial institution of the European Union is headquartered in the heart of the city.
  • The country is one of the international banking centers of the world. After the United States, Luxembourg has the 2nd largest investment fund, with $ 4 Trillion (with T) worth of investment assets. Remember, that is $ 4, 000, 000, 000, 000.00 (serious amount of money!).
  • Luxembourg investment portfolio is rated triple AAA by all the rating agencies (Standard Poor, Fitch, and Moody).
  • As a future investment banker and a venture capitalist, working in this country would offer some good skills in business and finance. Their financial sector is rock-solid and they seem to know what they are doing for sure. What am I waiting for?

 

Education, Healthcare, and Taxes

  • Luxembourg offers free primary and secondary education for all of its citizens. The university education is also subsidized at the University of Luxembourg, the only public school in the country. Students pay about 400 euros in first two semesters and 2, 200.00 for other semesters. All undergraduate students are required to do one semester abroad upon graduating with their bachelor’s degrees. Bilingual education in French/English & Dutch/German are also offered.
  • As many European countries, Luxembourg offers “free” healthcare to all citizens through a single payer healthcare system. They have one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. Apparently, all citizens have the right to choose their doctor, specialist, and hospital. This sounds too good to be true until you notice that they have one of the highest life expectancies in the world too: 85 years old. Their healthcare system must be legit and solid.
  • As you can imagine, they have a big tax rate. Personal income tax is about 42% on average. This sounds very high of course, but if your education and healthcare costs are covered, what else are you looking for? It sounds too high for me, but it works for them. Their social security for retirees is quite generous and with 85 years of life expectancy, they should be fine.
  • Corporate Tax is around 20%. Very generous tax rate probably to encourage big banks to set up their headquarters in the city and attract foreign direct investments.

 

World War II and Horrific Past

Thirty minutes away from the city, there is a National Museum of Military History in Diekirch. Due to its geographical location between France and Germany, this country was the center of some of the most life-threatening battles in world war II: notably the battle of the Bulge in Winter of 1944-1945. Lots of American lives lost in this part of the world, reminding us of a very horrific past. There is also an American Cemetery and Memorial, 3-km away from the city where lots of World War II American troops are buried. Some roads, in the heart of the city, are even named after US presidents and world War II American generals for their help to restore the city in difficult times. Luxembourg was invaded by the Germans in 1940 and was forcibly made part of Germany by 1942. However, in September of 1944, part of Luxembourg was restored and by December 1945, the whole Luxembourg was restored and had become an independent state again. Luxembourg is a member of NATO and is part of the Benelux countries along with Belgium, and Netherlands.


It was fun visiting and learning about Luxembourg. Lots of things to do around the summer if you are an outdoor person. Lots of nice restaurants downtown. By far, the best African restaurant ( outside of Africa) I have been to. I ended up eating too much that the waitress asked me to finish what I had first before ordering more. I will definitely come back. By the time I finished, I was ready for a nap.

 

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West African Cuisine in Luxembourg [Face2face Africa]

 

 

I hope you learned something new today.

Until then, stay on top your ( personal ) finances.

Peace and Love

Didier Champion

 

 

Sam Walton: The Bargain Billionaire

Sam Walton is considered as one of the most influential businessmen in the American History. His business philosophy (from the beginning) was built on selling things cheaper, which changed the way that people shop not just in the Unites States, but also around the world. Born from a poor family, Walton learned from his father how to work hard and make money even in difficult times. Like his father, Walton’s secret was to make a small profit for every transaction that he makes. This biography describes how Sam Walton started from being a small shop owner to a billionaire retail mogul.

 Walmart Founder 2017

Figure 1. What an amazing entrepreneur to learn from: From a small shop owner to a large company owner.

In his childhood, we developed his leadership skills and decided that he was not going to work for anybody. In high school, he played as an outstanding quarterback and he was the vice-president of his junior class. At home, he would help his family in the business and he would sell milk after football practice. After graduating from college with an Economics degree, he worked as a retailer at JC Penny store where he earned only 75-dollars a month. After marrying Helen Walton in 1943, he was called to serve in the army in World War II. When the war ended, he came back at home where he had to figure out how to raise his family.

Walton started his business with 25, 000 dollars (20,000 dollars was a loan from his father-in-law and 5,000 dollars was his own).  He started his own store, “$5-$10)”, in Bentonville and after 3 years, he had already paid off his loan. The secret of his business was to buy goods cheaply and sell them at cheaper prices compared to other stores. His business started to grow quickly and took out a few bank loans to expand his business. In 1962, he started his Wal-Mart store in Bentonville, Arkansas and in only 8 years, he had 32 stores in Arkansas. One thing that helped Walton’s business to grow faster was that he sells goods cheaply and he was very good at competing with his main competitors. Mr. Walton also knew how to build a good reputation of his store because he was involved in different charity work to help the poor get health care and education around different communities that his stores served. He set up a full-scholarship to 180 American Indian students each year and he was involved in various charity programs to help poor people across Arkansas.

In 1970, Walton was heavily in debt, so Walmart went public and offered its first IPO, putting his business on the market to revitalize his company. Many of the shares were bought by his Wal-Mart employees. The stock market boosted his revenues and finances so much that 5 years later; Walmart had expanded to 120-stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. Many small businesses started to close their doors since Wal-Mart was a big competitor and they started to complain about Wal-Mart lower wages to employees, but Walton renewed his company wage plan, which helped Wal-Mart to be successful through the courage and hard work of all its employees. His employees describe Walton as a generous, inspiring, but also a very demanding man.

In 1982, Walton started to be involved in politico-economics issues such as buy America, which helped American businesses to compete with international businesses on the market.  Walton was recognized by President H.W. Bush for his outstanding work and won the “Medal of Freedom Award”.

Walmart store 2017

Figure 2. Walmart Store Photo

Walton’s success is not just an amazing story, but a good example of what entrepreneurship is all about. A good entrepreneur must be both hard working and ambitious. Entrepreneurs have to make sure that their businesses satisfy people’s needs and their business needs to care for people’s concerns through social responsibility. In the end, his hard work paid off big time. He left his family with huge sums of money and there is no doubt that his legacy will endure from generation to generation. The Walton’s family is one of the richest family in the United States and in the world, thanks to one man vision to provide for himself and his family after coming back from world war II. In 1962, Walton started with only 25,000 dollars. In 1992, the total revenues were 44-billion dollars across the country with around 700-stores. Today in 2017, Walmart is worth around 230-billion dollars. His legacy will stay around for generations and by using his money as a seed, he sure ripped all the benefits for his family, investors, shareholders, and customers. If you are an entrepreneur or aspire to be one, be like Sam Walton.

Walmart Logo 2017

Figure 3. The company motto.

 

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Didier