Murebwayire: From beggar to banana wine entrepreneur

Briefly can you introduce yourself? I am 44 years old, widowed with five children. I am a second born in a family of seven born to Aloyz Ntamaraniro and Julienne Nyambere. I work as the Director of Cooperative de Production de Vin de Banane (COPROVIBA).

Briefly can you introduce yourself?

I am 44 years old, widowed with five children. I am a second born in a family of seven born to Aloyz Ntamaraniro and Julienne Nyambere. I work as the Director of Cooperative de Production de Vin de Banane (COPROVIBA).

I attended primary school in Kigali and continued my secondary school in Remera-Rukoma. Today I am pursuing a bachelor degree in Rural Development Studies at INILAK.

What is your childhood dream and are living it?

My mother always taught me to be active. My dream was to become a business person though I took teaching as a course.

When and why did you start your business?

After I lost my husband in 2003 everything went haywire compared to when he was alive. I used all the money that was in our accounts and I started begging for food from my neighbours so my children would survive. But that didn’t last for long because all my neighbours knew me and they were tired of me and, deep in my heart, I felt ashamed for burdening people by asking them for this and that.

I took I decision to move from Kigali City to the Eastern Province because things were becoming tougher and tougher for me and my children.

In 2004, I approached two men with an idea of making wine from bananas. I then suggested 90,000 frw as the capital but one of us failed to get that money. I advised my friends to mobilise more funds to run our business and, fortunately, we got the necessary funds. When we started people thought that I was a bar maid because they would see me going from bar to bar, trying to market our new product, Ibanga Wine. People would order and make comments about how we could improve our wine.

Who are the customers of Ibanga wine?

Many people in Rwanda now know our product and we’ve started exporting the wine across the East African region. We’re currently eyeing South Africa and the USA. For us, the sky is no longer the limit.

How has this business changed your life?

That’s a hard question. Almost every day I think about the time I used to beg for food. I will never forget a lady called Francoise who never gave up on me. My children now attend good school, I have many plots of land with different agricultural activities, and I have a house.

What are some of the challenges you meet as the director of COPROVIBA?

The biggest challenge is the low supply of our wine. According to a survey that was carried out, we can only supply 22% our demand. At the last trade fair we attended in Kenya, which was supposed to last for two weeks, our wine was finished on the first day and we had nothing left to sell.
Packaging is still another limitation in our business. Someone called Martin from the United States liked our wine and asked the Rwanda Development Board to send some samples there. We cannot because our packaging does not meet international standards, but we are working on it.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Most of my time is dedicated to my business, family and school. But with the little free time I have I meet with some of my friends and we go for ‘Igisope’ at Alpha Palace Hotel or I go for outings elsewhere.

What piece of advice would you to give to Rwandan women?

There are some women that think there some kind of jobs are shameful but they forget just how shameful it is to beg for food. My fellow women should know that there is no such a thing as a small job. They should know that, as long as they are passionate about something, they will succeed in it.  

 What are your future plans?

We are capable of producing high quality wine. We don’t have people complaining about the quality of our product but rather its quantity. I want to be able to compete with wines from Italy, South Africa and France.

 

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