Entrepreneurs in Rwanda, The Future of This Beautiful Country

Hi everyone!! I am TAJI (Daiki Tajima), a Master of International Business (MIB) student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. I started my summer internship in an NGO called African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC) in Kigali, Rwanda from the end of May and about 4 weeks have passed. I would like to share some of my experiences.

African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC) was founded by Ms. Julienne Oyler (CEO, Yale MBA) and Ms. Sara Leedom (COO, Oxford MBA) in 2012. AEC supports entrepreneurs in Africa to grow their business by providing workshops, consulting services, low cost loans, etc. Based on its annual report for 2016, it has worked with 231 entrepreneurs to help them create over 2,672 jobs. AEC currently operates in Rwanda and Tanzania but aims to expand their operations into 5 countries in Africa.

AEC’s Rwandan affiliate is called Inkomoko Business Development Ltd. “Inkomoko” means “beginning” or “origin” in the local language in Rwanda called Kinyarwanda. Currently there is a staff of about 30 people in Inkomoko. They have experience in accounting, taxation, banking, SMEs support, NGOs, and others. Some of my colleague are pursuing their master or PhD degrees while working. The Inkomoko staffs are full of diversity in terms of gender, nationality, religion, etc, and I was impressed by their warm welcome.

My role in AEC is to do the business assessment and consulting to clients, whom Bank of Kigali has chosen as its project called ‘Urumuri Initiative’. Bank of Kigali chose 50 entrepreneurs in which the winners of them can access to interest-free loans and I am in charge of 4 of them for assessing their businesses. My clients come from different sectors and businesses such as a pharmacy, a landslides alert system, and an IT business incubator. Feeling the passion of Rwandan entrepreneurs is really exciting for me.

Let me introduce one of my clients. Jean Luc Rwamasirabo, did his undergraduate and masters degree in India majoring in computer engineering. He established his own startup company called AgaciroSoft which provides IT solutions especially for agri-business. He supported some coffee business company to develop its website for expanding the exports. He is currently working for developing an IT based warehouse data management system and an app for recording the coffee testing results. I felt utilizing ICT has a lot of potential for improving agriculture in Rwanda in terms of efficiency, productivity, and access to the markets.

Through a partnership with UNHCR, AEC runs a program to develop business skills of Burundian and Congolese refugees, which will encourage self-sufficiency and poverty reduction in refugee populations in Rwanda. I had a chance to visit a poultry farm by a refugee entrepreneur, Salvator, originally from Burundi. He has 600 chickens and produces 13,000 eggs per month. He told me that he would like to contribute to solving the nutrition problems of people living in rural areas of Rwanda.

Job creation through supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is extremely important for poverty reduction. This applies not only in Rwanda but also in most developing countries and I am very glad to be part of it. Although my summer internship period is just 2 months, I would like to contribute to AEC as much as possible in order to gain a lot from my experience here. I would like to keep sharing my days in this beautiful country, Rwanda with some additional blog posts.