FEATURED: Tourism and hospitality graduates hone their skills in business planning and secure loans for innovative tourism products along the Kivu Belt Region

Fourteen graduates in the tourism and hospitality industry have been selected winners of the “Call for Proposals Campaign for Innovative

Tourism Products along the Kivu Belt Region” and awarded loans as startup capital to develop their innovative tourism products and services along the Kivu Belt Region in the Western Province. The graduates from the University of Tourism, Technology and Business studies (UTB), Gisenyi Campus, Muhabura Integrated Polytechnic and Musanze Polytechnic are set to get loans. Up to 20,000,000 million will be granted to individual projects as loan. The awarded projects vary from the first ever Mini-golf company in Rwanda to be established in Rubavu, Kid’s game park in the Nyamyumba Sector to hiking and village tours in the Rutsiro District, amongst others.

As a way of boosting the tourism sector in Rwanda, with specific focus on the Kivu Belt Region, stakeholders from the public, private sectors and a development partner initiated the campaign. The stakeholders are the I&M Bank, BDF, RDB, Chamber of Tourism, UTB, Muhabura Integrated Polytechnic and Musanze Polytechnic and the German Development Cooperation through the Promotion of Economy and Employment Programme (Eco-Emploi) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The objective was to enable tourism and hospitality graduates to develop unique and innovative tourism products and/or upgrade already existing products that will attract more tourists to the region. All 14 businesses are now registered with the RDB and i&M Bank will process the loans that will be guaranteed by the BDF. Over the next two years, the entrepreneurs will receive mentorship assistance from the GIZ/Eco-Emploi Programme and Improve Your Business (IYB) coaching through BDF. The Chamber of Tourism will support in creating market linkages.

Ms. Ellen Kallinowsky, Principal Technical Advisor of the GIZ/Eco-Emploi Programme said that the idea grew out of the Eco-Emploi Programme and in order to boost job creation they were able to mobilise other partners. “The youth have potential entrepreneurship skills. We trained the graduates on designing bankable innovative projects”. She further added that “GIZ will continue to strengthen their business skills and market the entire Kivu Belt region to create jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector since Kivu Belt has everything to offer.

Callixte Nyilindekwe, the Head of Business Banking at i&M Bank Rwanda PLC said that the selected projects received loans based on their feasibility and implementing capacity. “These are special projects and every project owner has a relationship manager, advisor and partners such as GIZ, BDF, Chamber of Tourism and others to follow up and avoid any risk that could impede the development of the project considering that start-up projects face risks,” he said.

“The guest of honour, Mr. Pierre Celestin Habiyaremye, the Executive Secretary of the Western Province, recognized the efforts of different stakeholders which made the Kivu Belt Call for proposal initiative such a success. He cautioned the graduates that have received loans about being responsible for the money received and valuing the support they received. He also promised them further support in implementing their projects.”

The campaign supports entrepreneurs

This initiative is the first of its kind in Rwanda that identifies supports and empowers graduate entrepreneurs in the tourism and hospitality industry. Anathole Bantegeye, one of the recipients of the award remarked, “prior to the Call for Proposals Campaign, I was not confident about doing anything in the Tourism Sector. When I started working on my project proposal, all the questions I had were answered. I got information on how to prepare my project. The Campaign helped me to realise my dream and now our company Ubumwe Cultural Camp Site Ltd. Is registered with the RDB”.

Esther Kakuze, another recipient of the award and who’s company Imuhira Eco-Tourism Rwanda Ltd. is also registered with RDB cited that “today many tourism graduates face the challenge of not getting jobs in the field of their study because in Rwanda, we have not explored the various types of attractions that people can visit. But when people venture in entrepreneurship and think innovatively, they are able to start something new and create jobs and employ others,” further adding that, “had it not been for the campaign that supported her to be an entrepreneur, she would still be struggling.”

 “It is difficult to become entrepreneurs, especially in the tourism sector, since it requires a lot of start-up capital. We are happy with such initiative that train us on fundable projects and getting connected to banks to help us implement the projects through credits and mentoring,” said Jean Claude Ndazigaruye, another graduate.

Ms. Ellen Kallinowsky said, “linking young entrepreneurial talents with service providers and established market actors is crucial for the development of the tourism value chain. Hence the Programme of Eco-Emploi wants to contribute to a conducive environment for start-ups in which they can bring in new ideas to the development of the tourism sector”. She further noted that the selected graduates received practical guidance and mentorship as well as other business services in their first entrepreneurial steps.

Livingstone Nkuusi, the Head Branches coordinator at BDF told the winners “We will continue to commit ourselves to help more youths to become entrepreneurs. The loan is for business not deviating to other spending. Work in partnership so that you can make this region a tourism destination.”

Dr Callixte Kabera, The vice chancellor of the University of Tourism Technology and Business Studies (UTB) thanked the GIZ/Eco-Emploi Programme for initiating the project that trained the tourism graduates in preparing bankable projects. “We are happy that from the 14 projects supported, 12 of them are from our University. We thank GIZ for developing the spirit and mobilising partners in this campaign. These projects will serve as role models for other graduates,” he said. The Vice Chancellor committed to continue providing quality education in tourism and hospitality and equipping students with entrepreneurship skills.

“We have committed that 60 per cent of graduates should be able to create jobs and provide jobs for others. Each final student prepares a dissertation, which they defend and that can be a fundable project after graduating. We monitor those projects so they become best and serve as model for other students. In this case we need partners such as GIZ and financial institutions to implement the ideas,” he said.

Doubling tourism revenues

Yves Ngenzi, the MICE Promotion Officer at RDB, said that the tourism products developed by the graduates would support tremendously in boosting the sector. He said that in 2017, tourism generated $438 million for Rwanda. The sector attracted 1.2 million visitors. “This contributes to 3 per cent to the GDP directly and 11 per cent indirectly. We have seen visitors increasing and many jobs being created in the tourism and hospitality sector.”

He further added that through different initiatives such as the Visit Rwanda campaign and the Call for Proposals Campaign for Innovative Tourism Products along the Kivu Belt Region, not only will the revenues double but also create more jobs for youths. “These graduates’ projects will attract more tourists who visit and buy made in Rwanda products.”

About the GIZ/Eco-Emploi Programme

The Economy and Employment promotion (Eco-Emploi) Programme is a Rwandan-German Development Cooperation Programme funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The main purpose is that selected partners implement employment-generating measures. Eco-Emploi contributes to the national development strategies through enhancing competencies of selected institutions in the economic sectors of Tourism, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), e-Commerce and Logistics, Wood economy and Creative Industries (audio-visuals). The Programme targets to create 5,000 qualified jobs through economic growth in the selected sectors.