Gahimakazi on why she opted for business upon returning to Rwanda

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Gahima with her nephew at gcom head office in Kigali

Twenty-five years ago, Yvonne Gahimakazi an entrepreneur, fled the country to Italy to pursue her dreams. While there, she studied political science to contribute to the peace building of her country. Currently, she runs several businesses, including Gahima Communications (gcom) where she is the founder and managing director, and is also a shareholder and manager of Brachetto, an Italian and French cuisine restaurant.

Gahimakazi is steadily rebuilding her life which was affected after the loss of her family in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The 44-year old had a chat with Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa, on her contribution to the country’s growth and how she is rebuilding her life.

You lived and worked in Italy for 22 years. What was your experience like away from home?

Because of the political instability in Rwanda at that time, I convinced my father to allow me go abroad for my safety and also to pursue my dreams in peace. In 1991, I moved to Italy to study at the University of Milan. I chose to study political science because I wanted to contribute to the political developments in my country. It was during my university days that I joined and actively participated in the activities of Party Libre, a political party in Italy, and also worked in the international relationship department of Milan City Hall. It was a great opportunity for me since we were few blacks in Italy at that time. My integration in their system and proficiency in French got me so many job opportunities.

You had gained ground in the political system in Italy. How did you eventually decide to return home?

I met my husband, Malcolm Mario Schena, and we got married in 2008, but together with our daughter we chose to come back to the country in mid-2013 to challenge ourselves to a new life and contribute to the growth of the country. I chose to accept the reality of the genocide and its consequences where I lost all my family members.

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Yvonne Gahimakazi relaxing at her home. 

I came to Rwanda to relink my past and future and for my daughter to learn about her country’s history and appreciate life. Being home has also helped me meet people who have a shared history and some whose history is more tragic, and this has helped me in my recovery. Also, with my busy work schedule, as well as interacting with many people has enabled me recover from my past as time goes by.

How are you rebuilding your life?

Gahima is my family name and I chose to contribute to the country by investing in a company, Gahima Communications, whose operations started in 2015. It’s a mobile money service provider working with MTN and Tigo.  It is a platform of different products like cash in, cash out, bill payments for TV and electricity.

In mid-2015, I also became a shareholder with Brachetto to support the owner, chef Alessandro Merlo who was a friend before we returned to Rwanda. I am responsible for the public relations of the company and human resources departments. Brachetto is one of Kigali’s top restaurants and has hosted international figures like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former US Secretary of State John Kerry and a host of other diplomats. My proficiency in Italian, French, Kinyarwanda and English coupled with my international knowledge in managing clients comes in handy. I have also empowered my the other staff and I can say confidently that the service at Brachetto  is unrivalled.

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Gahima with her daughter. 

With a background in political science, why did you choose business and politics?

The politics in the country is currently stable compared to how I left it. When I returned, I felt there was more need in the area of business and investment where I needed to put to use my knowledge and experience to contribute to the country’s growth.

What are your plans?

I want to make more investments in Bugesera District where I have family land in Nyamata town, where my father’s investments were completely destroyed. I want to rebuild what was destroyed and contribute to the growth of Nyamata my hometown. I hope that I begin next year in memory of my family.