Former street child scoops best young entrepreneur award

26-year-old Jean Marie Vianney Habiyaremye who has created a vibrant business by making artifacts from cow horns emerged the Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the colorful 2018 RDB Business Excellence Awards.

The gala which was held at the Kigali Convention Centre, on Friday night, seeks to celebrate the best in the private sector annually.


Raised in Nyamata, Bugesera, District, Habiyaremye was forced to the streets after dropping from school in Primary Five in 2008


“I am from a very poor family and sometimes we couldn’t afford a proper meal and so I decided to leave home and go on the street to hustle for my life,” Habiyaremye said.


“This award is a testament that there’s no situation that God cannot turn around, if you stay focused and work hard”.

About eight years into street life, Habiyaremye was picked from the street—together with eight other peers—by a Japanese social worker and started teaching them how to turn cow horns into artifacts.

“For about six months we had started making necklaces and other small artifacts. I enjoyed it so much because it was something new in Rwanda and thought it could change my life. She also offered to pay my school fees and I instantly enrolled and resumed school,” he added.

After a while, the Japanese “guardian angel” returned to her home country and it was time for Habiyaremye and his colleagues to take the lessons learned into practice and change their lives.

RDB CEO Clare Akamanzi hands over the Emerging Investor of the Year award to an official of AFRIPRECAST. Emmanuel Kwizera

 “Unfortunately, when that lady left the country, some of my mates dropped out and went back on the street, but I had finished Secondary school and I started working even harder to survive from the experience gained,” he said.

 In 2016, Habiyaremye opened a workshop in Kicukiro and employed some of his former street life peers, and also trained a few others. 

That same year, he took part in the annual International Trade Expo, organized by the Private Sector Federation. The trade fair gave Habiyaremye’s products enough visibility and instantly got overwhelming orders, he says.

“I had a feeling doing artifacts from horns was new and that it would earn me some money but to imagine that I would be here two years later is a dream,” Habiyaremye said adding that he plans to secure better machinery from Japan that will improve the quality and the size of his production in 2019.

He employs 13 permanent staff and earns close to Rwf 2 million every month from his products.

“I am thankful to RDB and the government; they have been great support and source of motivation to us. They have provided me and my business with the platform we needed to grow. And for this award, I am inspired and challenged to do even more beautiful products,” Habiyaremye told Sunday Times.

Most of the guests who turned out for the award were all are wearing made in Rwanda outfits.

Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) noted that in 2018, Rwanda’s economy continued an upward trend thanks to the private sector growth and challenged the business community to “take advantage” of the available partnerships, such as the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) by Alibaba Group and Visit Rwanda initiatives, secured by the government to grow their businesses and markets.

Akamanzi also noted that, that between January and November 2018, Rwanda’s Exports grew by 15 percent, urging exporters to aim for higher gains in 2019.

She also added that, of the investments registered in 2018, an estimated 26 percent represents export-oriented projects. Across sectors, manufacturing, mining, agriculture and agro-processing accounted for 57 percent of investments registered.”

“It is very important to celebrate the contribution of the private sector, especially when good results have been registered. In 2018, RDB for the first time registered investments worth US$ 2.006 billion, an increase of 20 percent when compared to those registered in 2017,” Akamanzi said.

“In 2019, we will be looking for more partnerships that will enhance tourism and business”.

Africa Improved Foods Country Director, Prosper Ndayiragije (R) receives the 2018 RDB Business Excellence Awards Exporter of the Year award.

In as far as Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Events for business and corporate travel to Rwandaare concerned, Akamanzi noted that 202 conferences were hosted in 2018, making Rwanda the 3rd country in Africa to attracts the most conferences.

“Correspondingly there was a major highlight in the Doing Business performance where we hit our Vision 2020 target of being in the top 30 globally. The World Bank ranked Rwanda 29th globally in its 2019 Ease of Doing Business Report, and 2nd in Africa.” Akamanzi recalled.

“We wouldn’t have done all this without the contribution of the private sector. Throughout the journey of selecting the best for the sixth edition of these awards, we see better quality and growth in Made in Rwanda products and that shows that businesses are moving well along with the vision of the country,’ Akamanzi said.

Akamanzi’s sentiments were echoed by Minister for Infrastructure Amb. Claver Gatete. He said: “Our country’s vision of a wealthy people and a prosperous nation cannot be realized without a vibrant private sector performance and financial sector development.

When these awards keep getting bigger and better it is a sign that the private sector is growing.

WINNERS of 2018

RDB Business Excellence Awards

Investor of the Year: I&M Bank Rwanda

Emerging Investor of the Year: AFRIPRECAST

Woman Entrepreneur of the Year: GET It

Innovator of the Year: Babyl

SME of the Year:  Pascal Technology

Young Entrepreneur of the Year:  Cow Horns Ltd

Service Provider of the Year: 

Legacy Clinics and Diagnostics

Emerging Made in Rwanda Enterprise of the Year:

East African Granite Industries

Made in Rwanda Enterprise of the Year:

Urwibutso Enterprise

Emerging Exporter of the Year:  Garden Fresh

Exporter of the Year:  Africa Improved Foods


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