Ex-Rwandan sports minister who works as hard as he plays

Sunday October 8 2017

Joseph Habineza

Joseph Habineza is a former Rwandan ambassador to Nigeria, ex-minister for sports and culture and former long time ICT analyst and programmer for Heineken and Bralirwa. PHOTOS | ANDREW KAZIBWE 

By ANDREW I KAZIBWE
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Joseph Habineza, 53, was born in Kamonyi district in Rwanda’s Southern province.

After his basic education he enrolled at the Institut Superieur d’Informatique in Gisenyi for a two-year course in ICT. He later joined Montpellier University in France where he graduated in 1989.

In 1990 he returned to Rwanda and was hired by Bralirwa Ltd as an ICT analyst and programmer and rose to be head of ICT. He was still working for Bralirwa in April 1994 when the genocide against the Tutsis started.

He fled to Congo where he was hired by Heineken to work in the ICT department and was shortly transferred to Amsterdam to do the same job.

Habineza returned to Rwanda in August of 1994 after the genocide, and rejoined Bralirwa, where he resumed his position as head of ICT.

Because there was hardly any work going on at Bralirwa, he was commissioned by Heineken to lead a project harmonising all its ICT departments in Africa, which he co-ordinated from Kinshasa, Congo, until 1996, when he returned to Rwanda, where he launched the same project in Kigali and in Burundi in 1998.

Habineza was later transferred to Nigeria in the same capacity and worked there for six years. He returned to Rwanda in 2004 and was appointed Minister of Sports and Culture, a position he held for seven years.

He was later appointed Rwanda’s ambassador to Nigeria, and served until 2014 when he was re-appointed Minister of Sports and Culture, an office he served until February 2015.

Besides ICT consultancies, Habineza recently ventured into food processing. His company manufactures the spaghetti brand Pasta Joe in Egypt, for distribution through retail outlets in Rwanda.

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What’s your off-duty passion?

I love sports. I jog in the morning and in the evening I play tennis.

If you hadn’t turned into who you are today, what would you have become?

I think I would still have ended up where I am. I am flexible and I adapt myself to whatever situation I find myself in.

What signifies your personal style?

I work as hard as I play. I also interact with all kinds of people, of all ages and professions.

How do you manage your wardrobe?

I do it myself. I dress according to the occasion. I have clothes ranging from sports wear to business suits.

When in East Africa, where are you most likely to be whiling away your time on a Saturday afternoon?

I love Rubavu, by the lake with a mountain scenery as the backdrop. I think it is unique. It holds many memories for me because this is where I attended university and also where I met my wife.

Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?

I love Nairobi because of its social culture of hanging out for nyama choma and fun. I find Nairobians very lively.

Anywhere on your must-visit list?

I long for the day I will visit Honolulu in Hawaii, USA. It’s my dream destination because of the stories I have heard about it.

I would also love to visit Malibu, in the US, and hang out by the beach front. Luckily it turns out that my son is studying there and he sends me pictures of the place. I am hopeful that I will soon pay him a visit.

What do you see as East Africa’s greatest strength?

We are moving pretty fast in the development and implementation of the East African Community integration. The tax regime, free movement of people and other trade systems is really great. What we need more is to develop a good common infrastructure like a connected railway systems, which will complement the systems in place.

What is your best collection?

Music. I have collections from Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie on my laptop. I used to have plenty of CDs but most were borrowed and never returned.

What’s the most thoughtful gift you have received?

I am not a materialistic person so I really appreciate the love and care that I have received from several people. It is something I hold dearly.

What is the best gift you have given?

Love and care to the people around me. I treasure love and care which I believe to be very powerful emotions.

Your last great read?

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, which is a gift from my son. When I read it, I was shaken. It is so impactful and teaches a lot especially a person who is a public figure.

Which movie had an impact on you?

Actually two. Cry Freedom, a film directed by Richard Attenborough, and Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee. Both depict the injustice done to black people and they broke my heart.

What’s your favourite music?

I like Zouke to dance to and the soul music to relax to, especially music by The Manhattans.

What is a constant in your fridge?
Cheese, milk and water.