Diversifying Rwanda’s Tourism Sector: Kigali’s Annual Dîner en Blanc

On August 10th 2014, the global phenomenon, Dîner en Blanc® took place at Acacia Gardens in Kagugu. Taking the pop-up, surprise concept to a refined level, these beautiful outdoor epicurean feasts are attended annually by as many as 15,000 people in cities around the world. After being the first African city to host this global event in 2012, this year marks Kigali’s 3rd official Dîner en Blanc®.

Globally, Dîner en Blanc® promotes friendship, elegance, and a sense of community amongst participants. In Rwanda, the annual event seeks to become part of the fabric of the country’s recently launched MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and events) tourism strategy. In May 2014, the Rwanda Development Board launched a new strategy for the tourism sector that will focus on the development of MICE tourism. The MICE strategy seeks to diversify the tourism sector in Rwanda by developing products and services for business and leisure travelers that will complement the country’s existing gorilla tourism, eco-tourism, and cultural and community based tourism.

Dîner en Blanc® Kigali is an annual event and this year, it attracted 585 participants. The event was attended by domestic tourists as well as participants from the region (Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, DRC, Ivory Coast, South Africa) and the world (Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Australia, the Netherlands, Oman, and the US). The event has made its mark not only by offering a unique tourism product, but especially by promoting local business such as restaurants, caterers, hotels, retailers, musicians, artists, designers, and tailors. Participating restaurants and catering services include Meze Fresh, Sole Luna, Indian Chef, Brioche, Mosaic, and Catertoo. The location of the pop—up picnic remained undisclosed until the day of the when pre-registered guests were transported from various bus points around Kigali to Acacia Gardens in Kagugu. In previous editions, the event was held in Gacuriro in 2012 and in Gishushu in 2013.

The 3rd edition of Dîner en Blanc® Kigali is presented by Illume Creative Studio, with the support of the Rwanda Development Board, the Ministry of Sports and Culture, and the Kigali City Council. This year’s event is proudly sponsored by Positive Productions, RwandAir, SORAS, KK Security, Mille Collines by Kempinsky, MTN Rwanda’s Mobile Money, and Akagera National Park. Further sponsorship was provided by Haute Baso, House of Tayo, Inzuki, Sonia Mugabo Designs, and Tsapa!.

Remake of Pharrell Williams Happy in Kigali takes off on You Tube

Over a thousand people and close to a dozen local groups participated in the making of the Rwandan remake of the hugely popular Happy music video by Pharrell Williams.

Kimberly Ross, who directed and produced the video for YouTube release, said,

We consider it more than just a cover of Pharrell Williams’ music video it’s an opportunity to show the world a side of Rwanda that defies the many stereotypes tainted by the country’s tragic history. Its a chance to showcase all the dynamic people and the positive vibes in Kigali today.

We hope that this video can be a catalyst for a broader discussion on the experience of people living in Kigali, as well as on the media’s portrayal of Rwanda and even Africa in general which all too often focuses on negative aspects of the past rather than its vibrant present and promising future.

Team Ethiopia jets in ahead of Tour Du Rwanda

Team Ethiopia is the first international team to arrive in the country ahead of the sixth edition of the 2014 Tour of Rwanda Cycling competition scheduled from 16-22 November.

Rwanda Cycling Team confirmed that the Ethiopian team has settled at the Africa Rising Cycling Center at Musanze for a period of three weeks for training, experience sharing and to get acclimatised to the weather conditions in Rwanda as well as tackle the routes ahead of the competition. Team Rwanda posted on its official website:

Thanks Team Ethiopia Cycling for joining us at Africa Rising Cycling Centre. Our first international team guests.

In their message to Team Rwanda, the Ethiopians wrote:

Many thanks to Jock Boyer and Kimberly Coats for letting us stay for three weeks in the Center, have every lodging, training even teaching us English language.

From bedroom to boutique: Handmade fashion with a Rwandan heart

When Christine Mbabazi started designing clothes in her bedroom in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, she had big ambitions. Now the owner of her own store Christine Creative Collections she has even bigger plans: turning her fashion boutique into a household name.

The brand is promoting African fabric and African designs, with my creativity, and developing it to the rest of the world, says the young entrepreneur.

Launched last March, Mbabazis startup produces and sells a wide variety of eye-catching fashion items, including bags, shoes and clothes. Mbabazi says Rwanda is at the very heart of her brand, so every creation in her store is handmade with locally-sourced materials:

I love the African fabric. [Growing up] I liked looking unique, [so] I used to cut my clothes in different ways I used to change them, I used to sew with my hands. It all inspired me to come up with what I have today.

Mbabazi, who is also a radio presenter, makes use of social media to reach new customers, but says she has found it difficult to convince people that traditional fabrics are acceptable in formal settings:

My friends saw me and saw I was very unique in parties, weddings, even at work thats how the word spread out. Its still a big challenge convincing people you can go to work when you have a African fabric suit but we are still fighting those small challenges.

Her next step is to take the brand, which she calls CCC for short, out of Rwanda:

I want to be exporting things made in Rwanda, so that when you are in Europe and you see something, youre like this is from CCC.

Rwandan entrepreneurs MPESA’s new rival featured on Innovate Africa on Al Jazeera

In this week’s episode of Innovate Africa, co-host Tapfuma Makina visits Nairobi to meet Kariuki Gathitu, founder of Zege Technologies. Zege has launched MPayer, a mobile payment alternative to MPESA, aimed at small businesses.

“In Kenya, 11-and-a-half million people use simple cellphones to pay their bills,“ says Tapfuma. “That’s more than double the number that have bank accounts… It all began when Kenyans who had no bank accounts began to trade their airtime to pay for services. This system was so successful that it was fine-tuned and called MPESA, the Swahili word for money. It is now the most widely used form of payment cross the African continent… But while MPESA works well for individual cash payments, it’s not designed to facilitate a business. But now there is MPayer, a new mobile innovation designed specifically for small businesses in Kenya.”

Co-host Ndoni Khanyile visits Rwanda to interview Henri Nyakarundi, an entrepreneur who has designed and franchised solar-powered mobile phone charging kiosks.

“The lack of electricity was a big problem in the region,” says the Ared founder. “60% of the population has a cellphone but less than 15% has access to electricity.

The kiosks are small enough to be towed by a bicycle to wherever people will pay a small fee to charge their phones. The kiosks can charge up to 30 phones at a time and Henri now has 24 franchisees operating across Rwanda.

Rwanda to improve post fish harvest infrastructure

The Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) is setting up quality infrastructure for the cold chain system in Kigalis Special Economic Zone as part of efforts to curb fish post-harvest losses.

Dr Wilson Rutaganira, the aquaculture and fisheries programme coordinator at Rab, said the infrastructure, which includes a cold room, containerised flakes and tanks, and ice melting machines, were also recently set up in Musanze and Rwamagana districts to address fishermen’s challenges, reports NewTimes.

The same is to be set up early next year at Kivu Lake to serve about 30 cooperatives of fishermen there, he said.

The infrastructure can preserve 30 tonnes of fish per day, according to Rab.

Rutaganira was responding to fish farmers who said they were making losses due to several challenges, including lack of an established cold chain system to handle fish from the country’s lakes.

Hawa Mukamana, a fish dealer in Kigali City market, said modern and appropriate fish processing and product development is difficult to them due to a myriad of challenges:

The only fish processing methods in use are traditional smoking and sun drying on lake beaches. The small amount of fish caught in Rwanda’s lakes is all sold right at the lake side with nothing left to take to urban centres to avoid making losses as it gets bad due to lack of preservation mechanisms.

Figures indicate that, currently, Rwanda imports 15,000 tonnes of fresh fish and another 15,000 of smocked fish every year, worth an estimated $10 million.

Most African nations to miss 2015 Millenium Development Goals

Most African countries will not reach the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015 because of the gap between economic and human development. That is one of the conclusions in this year’s annual U.N. report on the Least Developed Countries, presented Thursday.

Junior Davis, U.N. economic affairs officer for Africa, said African countries have not been able to translate their economic growth into structural transformation:

“We think that is the case because these countries have not focused efficiently on building what we call their productive capacities.

These are the basic human and economic development capacities that are needed to promote sustainable economic development. And the MDG, as they were constructed, largely ignored the need to develop the productive capacities.”

Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi are the only African countries on track to reach the majority of the development goals. They are making progress because they heavily invested in areas that create sustainable development such as infrastructure, health and education.

The post-2015 development agenda for fragile countries where governance remains an issue — such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo — will still largely depend on support from the international community to achieve social and economic development, Davis said.

Davis says improvements in rural development, industrial productivity, agriculture and the services sectors in these countries will require ways in which we can have a pattern of growth which is not just sustainable but jobs-rich, because we see the growth in jobs and employment is central to any development strategy that aims to reduce poverty in a sustainably.

Airtel Rwanda partners with TechWomen on mentorship

Airtel Rwanda has kicked off a two-week mentorship programme in partnership with TechWomen Rwanda, an organisation that aims to encourage more women in Rwanda to take on careers in the fields of Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a professional mentorship and exchange programme developed in response to US President Barrack Obama’s efforts to strengthen relations between the United States with the Middle East and Africa. Commenting on the programme, Airtel Head of Corporate Communications and CSR, Ms Denise Umunyana said:

Technology increasingly becomes central to all our day-to-day operations and we believe it is important to have more and more ladies taking part in this field.

Two young ladies have been selected to take part in a mentorship programme with Airtel Rwanda and our focus will be in the fields of Information Technology and Network. This mentorship programme is not only about Airtel sharing its rich knowledge and expertise with the youth but more about ensuring a trained and well experienced workforce for future Rwanda.

Speaking on behalf of TechWomen Rwanda, Ms Angel Bisamaza, one of the alumni said:

We are more than grateful to partner with Airtel Rwanda in this mentorship programme that will help the young girls get the necessary expertise they need in order for them to take on technology as a career or enterprise business. This is one step close in closing the gap between men and women in the fields of Science, Technology Engineering & Mathematics.

We are pleased to take these girls on and mentor them. This programme also currently aligns with our social responsibility focus which is to empower youth in the field of Mathematics and Technology. We shall continue to engage in youth initiatives such as this and more because we believe that the youth today will be the future tomorrow.

Rwanda’s Girl Research Unit in Their Own Words

In Rwanda, a movement has emerged over the last few year that has seen girls creating their own platforms to tell their own stories. Ni Nyampinga is Rwanda’s first teen brand and it features both a magazine and radio show produced by girls for girls that centers on issues that directly affect them. In 2012, Girl Hub Rwanda decided to build on this movement by creating a team of girl researchers armed with the skills to gather and tell stories of Rwandan girls’ lives.

In partnership with Market Research Society (MRS) and UK-based organization 2CV, Rwanda’s Girl Research Unit (GRU) was established to provide training on research principles, recruitment in the field, facilitation of workshops and research, analysis and interpretation, and presentation of results from the research to clients. Five young women graduated in June 2014 with an international qualification from the Market Research Society in qualitative research skills and are now equipped with girl-centered research techniques.

Since June, the GRU has been conducting field research and analysis and giving presentations on their research methodology to audiences such as graduate students from the College of Education at the University of Rwanda. The girls usually work in pairs or small groups when conducting their research and then they analyze their findings as a whole group. Some of the issues the GRU has researched include:

  • Ni Nyampinga radio and magazine: how girls respond to the different magazine issues. This research and analysis resulted in shortening the length of the magazine—as demonstrated in the latest issue (Issue 11). It also resulted in including boys in the upcoming Issue 12.
  • How boys and men can contribute to ending violence against girls. This research fed directly into Issue 11 of Ni Nyampinga magazine.

We recently spent some time with two researchers, Frida and Aurore, who shared their experience so far.

How do you feel since your graduation in June?

Aurore:

Happy and proud: my skills and knowledge continue to improve and I’m proud that I’m learning so much. I hope to become a professional researcher in the future.

Frida:

We didn’t have a lot of independent research work before June because we were still in training. Since then, we have had the opportunity to work alone and to present our ideas to the team which has helped us develop independently. We have worked on several different projects that have improved our skills and that have brought us closer to being professional researchers.

What do you like most about being a researcher?

Aurore:

I enjoy being able to listen to, analyze, and understand different research findings and I love being able to communicate the thoughts and feelings of others in order to contribute to change. It’s exciting that our research findings can help develop NGO and Government programs and strategies.

Frida:

I like speaking on behalf of people who cannot speak for themselves. It is a rare opportunity for girls to be able to go into the field, speak to other girls, gather information, understand people’s perceptions about different issues and then present these views to those who can help empower the people.

Where do you see GRU in 2-3 years?

Aurore:

In three years, we will be more independent. We will not need as much feedback and supervision as we do now and we will be equipped with the skills and experience we need to be able to be hired as professional researchers. We also want to keep reaching out and sharing our experiences so that more girls are inspired to become researchers as well.

Frida:

I hope for the growth of the qualitative research industry in Rwanda. Qualitative research is being used in more government institutions and other organizations. It should not just be about the numbers but also the story behind the numbers. And these are the stories that the GRU can help tell.

Ni Nyampinga chats with the young women behind the Rwandan eco-friendly brand, Angaza Ltd.

Benigne Mugwaneza, Ni Nyampinga journalist, interviewed Maria Mayanja and Monica Umwari, Founders of the Angaza Ltd. Angaza. The eco-friendly company specializes in upcycling, which is turning another mans waste into cool and hip accessories for men and women. The young company is already taking the world by story, having been exhibited and sold in different countries such as Rwanda, USA, Germany and Netherlands. Check out the rest of the video to hear how they started and their plans to encourage Rwandans especially the youth about being aware of their environment