Three Rwandans conceived one idea—creating a platform that would serve as activation, consulting and support hub for all Diaspora members interested in investing and starting business in Rwanda.
They then established Diaspora Business Incubator (DBI). The incubator was endorsed during Diaspora Homecoming Convention, which was hosted by Rwanda Diaspora Global Network (RDGN) in December 2015.
The incubator is a joint private venture founded by Jabo Butera, from UK, Francine Umutesi, from Poland, and Gisele Baganizi, from Canada.
According to Jabo Butera, co-founder and CEO, the idea to establish the diaspora business incubator was to create a platform through which Diaspora ideas would meet Rwanda’s transformation journey.
“DBI is a platform where global ideas meet Rwandan success,” said Butera.
He added that, “as former Diaspora members, having lived in Europe and Canada, we’ve been privileged to have exposure to various successful global ideas and initiatives in different industries. We realised that our country is open and ready to serve as a platform to implement those same ideas and initiatives that have worked so well elsewhere.”
Butera says they realised that many of their Diaspora peers shared a common desire to invest in innovative projects using the knowledge, skills and finances they acquired while in abroad-but lacked a seamless platform that would serve as activation, consulting and support hub for all of the members interested in investing and starting a business in Rwanda, thus the decision to create the DBI.
The incubator started running in January this year, but officially launched last week in Kigali.
“We have since expanded our services to meet other needs we identified as we progressed. We are driven by the passion and desire to contribute to the development of our country.
“DBI intends to continue the tasks of investigating and providing Diaspora investment mapping services, providing information on available financial incentives for the diaspora and real time statistics and funding availability,” Butera added.
Francine Umutesi, co-founder and chief operations officer, told The New Times that DBI is partnering with the government and public institutions such as National Bank of Rwanda, Business Development Fund (BDF), the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) and commercial banks, to enlist relatively sizeable products with attractive returns for Diaspora investment.
“We have already started promoting self-reliance among Diaspora members through the creation of Community Investment Clubs (CICs),” Umutesi said, adding that, the CICs will aim at creating financial freedom of members within their own communities but also contribute to the trade of Rwandan products by setting up convenient stores or mini supermarkets with “Made In Rwanda” products.
“And we will be re-injecting foreign currency back in the Rwandan economy,” she said.
Umutesi said DBI would also facilitate local Rwandan businesses to access market opportunities abroad for locally made products such as crafts among others.
For the last three months now, DBI has managed to cooperate with some Diaspora members’ companies such as Mergims and Makfast fast food & restaurant, and EastAfricanBooking.com.
Eric Karamage, who lives in Luxembourg, is the chief executive officer of EastAfricanBooking.com.
He told The New Times that the creation of a tours and travel booking portal, which harbours all Rwandan hotels and regional tourism destinations, will help to boost the service and hospitality sector in Rwanda.
“This, I believe is one way I can be part of my country’s development, with the help of Diaspora Business incubator—which will facilitate my company’s operations while I am away,” he said.
At the launch last week, Trade and Industry minister Francois Kanimba tasked DBI to encourage members of the diaspora to establish small and medium business enterprises in Rwanda, which will eventually grow to boost the investors financial status and the economy in the long run.
“Rwanda is now one of the best destinations globally for doing business. I task you to challenge fellow Rwandans abroad to seize the available business opportunities and invest their money back home. With the establishment of small and medium enterprises, we can work together to promote Made in Rwanda brand or create jobs for our people here in Rwanda—this move is definitely a win-win initiative for the business people and the country at large,” Kanimba said.
Role of Diaspora global network
Umutesi noted that Rwanda Diaspora Global Network (RDGN) was “instrumental in fuelling” their ambitions to link Rwanda’s business opportunities with Rwandan communities abroad and friends of Rwanda.
“Considering the main objective of RDGN which is to be a platform for Rwandans abroad while promoting and contributing to the development of the country; they have been instrumental in inspiring our start-up. Unifying our strength, our complementarity and diversity helped fuel our common goal to develop our country,” she said.
Alice Cyusa, the chairperson of RDGN, says the establishment of DBI is a “success story in itself for Rwandan communities abroad, who are determined to see continued development of their motherland.”
“Everyone is happy to see DBI budding. It is a private company with an inclusive responsibility of promoting Rwanda’s business climate,” she said.
Cyusa said this was one of the five resolutions adopted last year during their Diaspora Homecoming Day and Diaspora Investors Forum; to mobilise and encourage Diaspora members to open Investment accounts in Rwanda, Creation of Community Investments Clubs (CIC) and support and promote Diaspora Business Incubator (DBI) Initiative, among others.
“I am glad to see one up and running. We hope to see more involvement of Rwandans abroad in the development of their country,” Cyusa said.