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Foreword

Foreword

Eric Kacou builds upon the ideas of Michael Porter, Larry Harrison, C.K. Prahalad, and many others. These are the eminent people we read not just because of what is in their books, but because they wrote it. Now we will begin to study and comprehend Eric’s work.

Eric grew up in a poor country, found his way to a world-class education, and competed with elite students and professionals to finally co-lead a management consultancy firm focused on helping post-conflict nations.

You will note from his biography that Eric is an expert in creating informed choices and getting others willing to be guided by him, that he is results-oriented, that he is one of the world’s best practitioners of competitiveness. What may be harder to see is that Eric was a great colleague and mentor to scores of young professionals, that clients from Washington to Kigali asked for him specifically, and that he has become, over ten years of working on four continents and stints at Wharton and Harvard, a master integrator of the ideas that support enterprise solutions to poverty.

Porter innovated on the range of strategic choices but focused only on rich countries and left the idea of mindset or culture out of his synthesis. Harrison helped us to focus on the notion of trust and pro-innovation thinking but had nothing to say about how innovation occurs at the level of the firm. Prahalad helped us to value the size and quality of emerging markets but had few normative frameworks to enable company-level choices. My own research and writing comes up short because I don’t find and write about iconic local entrepreneurs who could become role models for so many others, which is an important basis of change.

Eric’s work remedies and reconciles many of these shortcomings. But that is not entirely what is important here. It is very significant that a citizen of Africa writes about mindset, that he illustrates his thinking with homegrown entrepreneurs, and that he is not only eloquent about the principles of indigenous innovation, but that he embodies the virtues and principles of innovation himself.

It is time for this book. Strategic thinking should not be the sole province of the Ivy Leagues; policies that affect trade and growth in the Majority World are not better when they are constructed in the metropoles of North America and Europe. Role models are not those who travel from these affluent places and espouse innovation and prosperity to others, only to return, as I do, to the comfort and safety of rich institutions, predictable careers, and leafy suburbs.

Eric writes about many who really had to worry about the education, shelter, and medical care for their families and still build businesses in tough places that create unique value for consumers, workers, and future generations.

He has spent many of the last ten years working in Rwanda. The country has grown 8% per year during that time and will grow to 10% this year due to a culture of self-determination, transparent policies, and a firm level focus. Eric has as much to do with this success as any outsider can claim. He has warm, trustful relationships at every level of society, taught hundreds of seminars, presented to cabinet and parliament, and informed the policy debates in numerous sectors of the economy. He has also learned from the Rwandans, and this book has much to say on what outside advisors can learn from local innovators and role models, if and when they lose their arrogance.

Eric borrows, modifies, and builds upon the work of numerous mentors, colleagues, and clients, especially the Rwandans, but finds ways to make the work more practical, tangible, and meaningful. This book will find a wide audience and have impact in far-flung places for years, not just because of what it says, but because of who wrote it.

—Michael Fairbanks

Founder of the OTF Group

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