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Denis Rüggeberg – From Far Away Rwanda to Tansania

The “Tan” part in the country’s name Tanzania means “sailing in the wilderness” in Swahili. This phrase may have hardly crossed the mind of our WiSo alumnus Denis Rüggeberg when he arrived at his new workplace in vibrant Dar es Salaam in November last year. But first things first!

Last year we covered how Denis Rüggeberg took the big leap to Rwanda after graduating from the WiSo Faculty. After completing his master’s degree in Corporate Development, Rüggeberg started working as a junior consultant for the German Sparkassenstiftung for International Cooperation (DSIK for short) in Kigali. Last year, the Deputy Country Director left his position in Dar es Salaam and Rüggeberg was the ideal candidate to fill the vacant position. In Rwanda, Rüggeberg mainly worked on the professionalisation, digitalisation and consolidation of micro-finance institutions.

In addition to his project work, his new responsibilities in Tanzania mainly include management tasks. In his new management position, Rüggeberg now deals with personnel and budget issues, exchange with other project countries in eastern Africa and local development cooperation partners, as well as networking with other organisations. Moreover, an important focus of his work continues to be on promoting the micro-finance sector. For instance, he is currently working on a project in which micro-finance institutions are to be supported by a credit rotation fund to be able to provide loans to customers despite the coronavirus crisis.

Workshop with partner organisation to plan joint activities ©Denis Rüggeberg

Tanzania is home to Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point at 5,895 metres, as well as its lowest point, 688 metres below sea level at the bottom of Lake Tanganyika. Rüggeberg probably did not feel quite such extreme highs and lows when he arrived in the megacity of 5.5 million inhabitants.

There, it has not been unusual for Rüggeberg and his colleagues to get no further than a few metres in rush-hour road traffic after work. In contrast to the largest city in East Africa, commuter traffic in relatively quiet Kigali, with a population of less than 1 million, is rather different.

Although Rüggeberg misses the comparatively calm and orderly nature of Kigali, the megacity on the east coast of Africa still has a lot to offer. Trips to the beach after work or at the weekend, for example, are at the top of Rüggeberg’s list of favourite things to do.

Moving home during the still ongoing coronavirus crisis was anything but easy. Although Tanzania enforces few restrictions, it was difficult to become immersed in social life in Dar es Salaam straight away. For Rüggeberg, however, work nevertheless offered some opportunities to make new contacts, as the atmosphere among colleagues is very friendly.

The day-to-day work itself is characterised by sometimes different approaches, but also intense, mutual appreciation. As an example of this, Rüggeberg mentions the different planning processes before meetings. Some colleagues there expect rather tight planning times, while others are able to learn from flexibility. “Both approaches work best when you meet in the middle,” he notes. And in the end, it is precisely these different perspectives that lead to a great result.

Meeting with partner organisation to sign a partnership agreement ©Denis Rüggeberg

And how can the study content at WiSo be applied to everyday work? During his master’s in Corporate Development, Rüggeberg dealt a lot with strategic planning and strategy development, so he now sees the content he learned as a toolbox from which he can help himself in his everyday work as he sees fit and according to the situation. Especially in his cooperation with partner organisations, he can now apply the content he learned at WiSo in a sustainable way.

The WiSo claim “Today’s ideas. Tomorrow’s impact.” fits perfectly with Rüggeberg’s career so far and his future plans.

Already during his master’s thesis at the chair of Prof Ebers, Rüggeberg decided to focus on critical success factors in cooperation between non-profit organisations and companies. Rüggeberg wants to continue to pursue such ideas developed from his time at WiSo. His declared goal for the next few years, in addition to all the other projects, is now to create economic and social added value with a pilot project.

Besides Rüggeberg’s personal goal of learning Swahili, his hope for the next few years is to contribute to improved financial inclusion in East Africa, together with the team and partner organisations. And almost like the baobab trees in Tarangire National Park, which can live up to 1,000 years, we wish Rüggeberg long-lasting success.


Text: Lorraine Hoffmann