1. Briefly tell us about yourself and your background.
My name is Akaliza Gara and I am a 25 year old Rwandan entrepreneur. I moved to Rwanda for the first time in January 2009 after having lived in eight different cities around the world and visiting over 15 others by the time I was graduating from university.
How would you describe yourself?
I am happiest when curled up in a chair with a good book. I think because we travelled so much, I learnt to be more open and social but the truth is, I am quite reserved.
What was your childhood dream? Are you living it?
My childhood dream was to be an author and illustrator of children’s books. I have always loved the experience of getting lost in a story. This year I plan to start creating animated films and series targeting Rwandan children. So I think, in many ways, it’s an extension of my dream.
Briefly tell us about your company, ‘Shaking Sun’
Shaking Sun is a multimedia company that offers a range of services including website development, graphic design and animation. I have a fantastic team which I am hoping to expand this year, by God’s grace.
Why did you decide to venture into the ICT sector
There are a lot of opportunities in the ICT sector in Rwanda. Not only is there a lot of promotion from the Government, but in Rwanda you have the incredible opportunity to be the first to do something. You could be the first Rwanda, to develop a Blackberry app or the first Rwandan to design a laptop. It’s a tremendous honour to feel a part of the development of your country - and I hope other Rwandans can sense that.
What challenges have you come across?
I speak Kinyarwanda quite badly. That’s still very embarrassing! I’ve improved a lot over the last three years, but I still have a long way to go... buhoro buhoro (slowly, slowly).
What inspires you to keep on?
I have always been passionate about art - sketching and painting - but I knew that making a name for myself and having a career in that sector can be very challenging. I was always pretty good with computers, so I decided to combine the two and learn computer animation. The course I ended up taking was Multimedia Technology & Design so I learnt a bit of everything. I realised that there was a huge global market for web design, so I decided to focus on that until I could afford the equipment and software I needed for animation.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the Rwandan woman?
I think one of our biggest challenges is the need to challenge ourselves. For men, there is usually a lot of pressure on them to have successful careers- to be publicly recognised and of course, rich. For women, I think there is more social pressure to get married and also to look good. Sometimes I feel that if my business failed completely but I got married and started a family and dropped my career, I could still be seen as successful - especially if I stayed trim and fit.
But not so with a man, he would be expected to do well at work or in business, as well as have a family. I don’t know any Rwandan ‘house-husbands’. I’m not saying that I’d choose my career over family. Just that, if you are a woman, and you’ve decided you want a big career, the onus is on you to challenge yourself - dream, explore, grow. Chances are, no-one is going to push you - so you have to push yourself.
How do you spend your leisure time?
What leisure time? Just kidding. When I do take a break, I love to read novels. I also love watching cartoons, particularly late at night - Courage the Cowardly Dog, Samurai Jack and the Avatar.
What is you current relationship status?
What a question! It sounds like you are working for Facebook (laughs)... well, I am single. I love children and I can’t wait to have my own one day, by God’s grace.
What are your future plans?
For my business, I hope to get bigger headquarters and offer new services, as well as expand regionally.
Personally, I want to continue travelling. I think my parents gave me the bug and now I’m hooked. I would love to do a tour of Africa - Morocco, Ghana, Botswana and Madagascar.
My mom started asking me at night every time she’d leave me still hunched over my computer, ‘What are you going to do tomorrow?’
The answer is, ‘The same thing I do everyday - try to take over the world!’