In the mid-1990s, Rwanda literally could not find a friend to save its life. Now, everybody wants in on Rwanda's prosperity and I guess that's just how the world works.
Back in March, I received a phone call from a man telling me about this 4-star hotel he built in Rwanda and how he wants top quality images to help market the property. He said he liked my work for Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz and others and he was willing to pay for that same quality.
My first thoughts (aside from that movie) were: How could there possibly be a photogenic hotel in a place like Rwanda? Are four Rwandan stars the same as four American stars? Does this man know what American photographers charge?
As it turns out, my impressions of this central African nation were still left over from 1994 when CNN, NBC and a few other media outlets were kind enough to preempt an episode of Seinfeld in order to debate the definition of genocide.
In the 15 years since the horror, this tiny country has experienced an introspection and self-improvement that even "The Greatest Country In The World" would be smart to emulate. Women now make up more than half of Rwanda's parliament. Dubai World has committed to US$4 billion in Rwandan development. There are plans to install high-speed broadband across the entire country and construction is booming. I guess success is easier once you've hit rock bottom.
A small component of this success is the Top Tower Hotel, a short drive from the new U.S. embassy in Kigali. It was designed by a Chinese architect and built by a Chinese general contractor. My client deserves the credit for hiring me all the way from Florida versus a local African photographer. I'm sure my cost estimate was a tough sell internally but he's somewhat of a visionary and an example of the country's new thinking.
I am thrilled to play my tiny part in helping promote the new Rwanda. But I'm also proud to be one of the few Americans to see that Rwanda's sequel is so much better than the original.