After a long layover at Addis Ababa airport I was pleased to be back on familiar ground, walking into the terminal building in Kigali. I was raring to go – ready for two weeks of hard work, preparing staff at Rwanda Natural Resources Agency (RNRA) for future growth through capacity building.

View from hotel

The landscape of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda

This wasn’t my first time in the bustling Rwandan capital. I spent a week in Kigali in March 2015, on a short-term assignment organised by ‘Investment Facility for Utilising UK Specialist Expertise’ (IFUSE). IFUSE sends UK government specialists overseas to share expertise with the aim of promoting economic development. It’s what puts IT people like me, a Network Engineer from Plymouth, in touch with RNRA.

Last time, I came to Rwanda to assist my IT counterparts at RNRA with an update to their flagship internal application, the Land Administration Information System. I supported the RNRA ‘can do!’ spirit with HM Land Registry know-how.

With Providence Uwineza and Jean de Diem Uwumukiza

With Providence Uwineza and Jean de Diem Uwumukiza

HM Land Registry’s experience and expertise is well-recognised. In 1986 we began processing computerised applications. In 2002 we saw the start of our electronic services. Today, we are working on developing new digital services, such as our Digital Register and Digital Mortgage.  It’s that hard-won expertise that attracts the attention of our peers across the globe.

Much like HM Land Registry, RNRA works with a range of partners who seek to widen access to online channels. The Rwanda National ID Agency, the Rwanda Development Board, and the Rwanda On-line project all tie into data held by RNRA, and that’s where I come into the picture.

As part of my last engagement I provided RNRA with recommendations for improvements to their network. So, who better to aid the implementation of those recommendations than one tired traveller from Plymouth waiting at Kigali airport baggage claim.

It’s hard to be anything but enthusiastic when you work with RNRA, no matter how far you’ve travelled. They approach everything with enthusiasm, from completing the registration of every parcel of land in the country to pulling network cables between floors of an office building late on a Saturday night. That sense of enthusiasm is infectious, which is good because during my two weeks there, I didn’t see much more than the office and my hotel room.

Rwanda landscape

The view from the journey to work in Kigali, Rwanda

Capacity building can be a chore, a challenge, or a cause for celebration. With RNRA I found it to be mostly a cause for celebration but not without its challenges. After answering one raft of questions from my eager interlocutors I found from time to time that I’d be quizzing them right back. I wanted to encourage them to try things they’d never attempted before whilst they had my support. The trip was definitely a cause for celebration, as thanks to my capacity building, my counterparts were able to configure and test part of their new network, without me needing to lift a finger!

Representing HM Land Registry, IFUSE and the UK government overseas sounds like a daunting prospect, but I found that all I needed to do was employ the same professionalism and attention to detail I apply back home. That being said I don’t normally wear a shirt and tie in the office, so I suppose I did make a concession or two.

I found the Rwandan people to be enthusiastic, be it teaching me to count to ten in Kinyarwanda during the taxi journey between the hotel and the office block (for those who asked, it’s Rimwe, Kabiri, Gatatu, Kane, Gatanu, Gatandatu, Karindwi, Umunane, Icyenda, Icumi) or asking question after question during a technical presentation I gave towards the end of my engagement. My Rwandan colleagues place great importance on learning and if they think you know something they’d like to learn they’re certainly not shy about asking questions of you!

Capacity building of staff at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority

Capacity building of staff at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority

I’m certainly glad of the opportunity IFUSE and HM Land Registry gave me to contribute to RNRA and will watch their continued development with interest.

David Sibley
By David Sibley,
Network Engineer at HM Land Registry