He has met world leaders – and travelled all over. While hundreds of Rwandans that have studied in China or still do, will likely return to Rwanda, or get survival jobs but not him.
Meet Samuel Abikunda 29, engaged in expanding China’s influence to the world. Abikunda has made China his ‘second’ home.
Since 2014, Abikunda was seen discussing international deals with presidents and other important personalities on behalf of his Poly Solar Technologies, a subsidiary of China Poly Group, a fortune global 500 enterprise.
In the company, Abikunda serves as Project Manager for Africa and for him, this did not come as a surprise because he worked for it.
In August 2007, Abikunda left Rwanda for China after completing high school education at Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare where he was among the top five best students at national level.
He was under scholarship at North China Electric Power University in Beijing where he later graduated with a Master’s Degree in Power System and Automation.
As soon as he graduated, China has considered offering him honorary citizenship – a status bestowed by a country on a foreign individual it considers admirable or otherwise worthy of the distinction.
“I used to train myself in linguists which helped me adapt Chinese language easily. At the university I presented dissertations in Chinese which was seen as a wonder; it was a key that opened many doors for me,” Abikunda told KT Press.
Upon completion of his studies in 2014, he was recruited by China Poly Group.
“I became the first ever foreigner to be recruited by Poly Group since the foundation of the company in 1999,” he said.
“I felt it was my responsibility to represent the diligence, hard work and dedication of our people and I can humbly claim that I have been successful in this task through many projects I implemented.”
Poly Solar Technologies is engaged in; application, research and development, integration, sales, engineering, construction and new and renewable energy services.
Abikunda completed more than 50 projects in 23 African countries including; Togo, Senegal, Morocco, and East Africa including Rwanda.
In December 2016, Abikunda was seen discussing business with officials of Republic of Guinea and he wrote on his Facebook wall that they had “Very fruitful discussions on renewable energy between the delegation of Poly Group and His Excellency Alpha Condé, President of The Republic of Guinea.”
In that discussion, Kondé learnt that his guest is a Rwandan national and he told him what he knows about the country.
“On a side note His Excellency made remarks on the fast economic growth in Rwanda and the good cooperation between the two countries. I’m feeling blessed to be Rwandan…Genda Rwanda uri nziza!”
Meanwhile, in Republic of Guinea, Abikunda revealed to KT Press, “the representation I made resulted in signing of contracts for solar and housing projects, the implementation will start soon.”
Moreover, he said, solar street lights and solar stations will be installed in different parts of Togo and social houses will be built in Guinea.
“I love Home”
Back home, Rwanda is also benefiting from Abikunda’s presence in China. His company supplied solar home systems in Gisagara, Ruhango, Gakenke and Gatsibo Districts and more projects are underway.
“We are discussing with real estate companies on how we can build social houses using our prefab technology.”
He said his company provides prefabricated houses which are environmental friendly, fast to install, fireproof and waterproof and earthquake resistant.
These houses are manufactured off-site in advance, normally in standard sections that can be easily shipped and assembled. Solar panels will be installed on the roof to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
Other investments he is considering to bring to Rwanda are irrigation projects using solar powered water pumps.
Abikunda believes that bringing investors to Rwanda are not just favours to the country but rather Rwanda deserves it.
“Rwanda offers many investment opportunities which some Chinese companies don’t know yet,” he said.
Some Chinese companies that got consultancy in Rwanda have settled because there is a lot of work. These include China road in road construction.
Need to work with/for Chinese? Be smart
Abikunda describes Chinese people as very hard working, disciplined and goal-oriented.
“Working with them can be very demanding and challenging at times but it’s the challenges that make work more interesting and exciting,” he said.
In the beginning, he struggled to get used to Chinese working environment, style and, culture, but he finally stabilized.
“In every project my team faces countless decisions along the way, and as a Project Manager I have to make sure the team decisions are good,” he said.
“In some cases we will need approval from board of directors, but usually the decisions we make are final.”
Poly Group Rewards Abikunda’s Mother
Abikunda Samuel was born in April, 1988 in Huye, Southern Province. He is the sixth born in a family of eight children. His late father was a protestant pastor and a psychiatrist and his aging mother is a nurse.
His elder sister Umutoni Carine, told KT Press that since childhood Sam was a brilliant stubborn boy that challenge others.
“I can remember he was never the second in class but the first at the national level in his Primary Leaving Examinations in 2000 and O’ Level in 2003,” she said.
Umutoni thinks that Sam is preserving the legacy of their father who always said that he would die a happy man if all his children were educated. He was blessed to see that before his death in 2015.
“We all went to school but Sam still outshines us all and we are proud of what he is doing,” she said with laughter.
Umutoni said that Poly Group once sent a gift to their mother to acknowledge unprecedented service his son is offering to their country.
“It was so touching,” says Umutoni.
Abikunda, says his secret is being focused, always pulling all resources in ensuring that priorities are set correctly and goals reached.
“I am responsible and avoid excuses at the slightest chance,” said Abikunda.
“Because of the good work I am doing for the company, they adopted a culture of hiring other foreigners which was so unusual before.”