Pie-Pacifi que Kabalira-Uwase

Business Systems and Data analyst, Absa

Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase got where he is through a hole in the fence. As a 21-year-old fleeing a lifetime of ethnopolitical persecution in Rwanda, he was hell-bent on getting to Madagascar. Then, sitting in an internet cafe in Maputo, Kabalira-Uwase met a Congolese former UN volunteer. "Go to South Africa,� the volunteer told him. Kabalira-Uwase, who could not speak English, was reluctant. He wanted to go to a Francophone country, and had heard that foreigners were the target of xenophobic attacks over the border in KwaZulu-Natal. But the man was adamant. So, a boat trip, a bakkie ride and several bribes later, Kabalira- Uwase arrived in Durban where he was welcomed by the Rwandan community, who helped him apply for asylum. By law, Kabalira-Uwase had the right to study. But the University of Natal refused to give him a study loan, arguing that he was a foreign student. He went from office to office, speaking with deans and directors, until the matter landed up in the university senate. Meanwhile, he worked as a car guard on the Durban seafront. When he was finally given a temporary student card, the study loan did not come through for months. He survived on macaroni and bread, bought with the copper coins he kept in a hessian rice bag. "I suffered from depression and anxiety, knowing that without an education there was no future for me, and there was no back-up plan,� he says. Slowly, though, things fell into place. In 2006 Kabalira-Uwase was selected as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and graduated with a BSc. Absa brought him on board in 2008. "I've had first-hand experience of the conflicts in Africa, and I believe that our generation has inherited the onerous task of healing the continent. Experience in the business world is a necessary component of what I want to do, which is to help build a sustainable and inheritable Africa for future generations,� he says. � Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Tranquility Restaurant, Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, Emmarentia, Johannesburg