#18 Norbert Haguma – Positioning yourself in the middle of the next big thing
Norbert is a young African professional with over 10 years of experience in China. A Rwandan national, Norbert speaks 6 languages including Chinese, French and English and has 6 years’ experience in Chinese investments in Africa, working with such prestigious institutions as China Development Bank and Exim Bank. He is a co-founder of YAPS (Young African Professionals and Students); and co-founder and CEO of Kiziga.com, the biggest African platform for online Chinese university application and China-related Human resources and internship opportunities, and that project won him the Harambe-Intel Entrepreneur Award. Today, Kiziga represents 186 Chinese universities on the African continent. Norbert is also the representative of African Leadership Network in China, and a columnist at China investment magazine.
Having someone’s destiny in my hands like that gave me a tremendous sense of joy and responsibility at the same time.
How he got to China
His parents were the first ambassadors to China after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. As a middle school student, he remembers the diplomatic community being very segregated from the more authentic China and so he missed out on properly learning the language and cultural landscape. Years later, after graduating high school back home, he returned to China first to learn Chinese, and then to earn his bachelor’s in Computer Science.
How he got started
He took the lessons he learned from his own experience as an African exchange student to build the foundation of a company that would truly care for and nurture students from university selection and acceptance, through internship assignment and eventually to integrating into the workforce.
In a former company, Norbert’s local partners switched up their business plan literally over night leaving Norbert high and dry.
Lessons learned along the way
- Choose your partners carefully. Make sure they’re committed to your market or product. Norbert suggests working with the largest company as possible. Tune in to find out why.
- Work with the decision makers in a local company.
- Judge by action and not by words.
- As a foreigner in China, financing is extremely difficult to secure on your own.
- Find a great agency to help register your company, use the expat entrepreneurial network to make introduct
Keeping motivation high
He’s a big music fan, so he tunes in when he needs a break.
Going to the airport to pick up Kiziga.com’s first successful applicant. It’s a memory he’ll never forget.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
Working in China, you’ll end up with partners, either foreign or Chinese. So think about how to make money fast, increasing cash flow, to make yourself more appealing to potential partners. Focus also on small markets, not try to conquer China as a whole.
Next year, they’ll roll out a bigger HR platform, to include internships and job opportunities for their students.
- YAPS (Young African Professionals & Students)
- The China in Africa podcast
- Are You Ready to Succeed?, book by Srikumar Rao
Connect to Norbert
Linkedin, search Norbert Haguma