In the latest excerpt from the book ‘Building East Africa’s Future’, which chronicles the first 25 years of FBW Group’s history, we look at the group’s expansion into Rwanda
The opening and establishment of our Kigali office a decade ago was another major milestone in the development of FBW as a truly regional business.
The expansion into Rwanda was led by Antje Eckoldt. Antje and Rob Woffenden joined the business together in Uganda in the late 1990s.
After spending seven years in Kigali, establishing the office there, the couple, who have raised a family in Africa, moved to Nairobi.
There, Antje opened our Kenyan operation where she is now Country Manager as well as a Group Director.
Along with leading on office openings, architect Antje has spearheaded and successfully delivered major projects. She is also a champion of the circular economy.
Robert has also played a leading role in our development and as Director of Engineering has been responsible for structural and civil engineering design for FBW throughout the region. A Group Director he is also Business Development Co-ordinator in Kenya.
Antje, who gained experience in Germany and the UK before joining FBW, says: “I came to Africa for an initial three months to see if I’d like it and I’m still here!”
Once in Rwanda she quickly became part of the Kigali community, making contacts that would see FBW in good stead in the years to come.
When she moved to Kenya in 2015 to open the office there, she used all the experience gained in Kigali as she again built from scratch.
She says: “The fact I’d done this before, I’d written the business plan for Kigali, really helped. I enjoy the challenge.”
Rob, who is originally from Cheshire in the UK, looks back on some of the more unusual tasks he has found himself doing during his time in Africa.
That includes appearing on Ugandan TV as a football pundit analysing UEFA Champions League games and acting as Norway’s honorary consul general in Rwanda for almost four years!
He says: “The consulate needed someone who had a business and an office and spoke English. We had the consulate plaque outside the FBW office and every day we raised the flag. The TV appearances came when a friend of mine was unable to appear and they needed someone to fill in and I was volunteered.”
Rob has seen the development of architecture and engineering in the region first-hand. “We have been involved in the creation of some pretty amazing buildings,” he adds.