The holiday season is almost here and all around there will be people and companies with big hearts who will donate and bring Christmas cheer to the less fortunate in the society. This is good. Some people, however, have been at it all year long, year in, year out. Among these, are Rotarians.
The simplest definition of a Rotary Club is that it is an association of Business and Professional leaders who want to give back to the society. Members of these clubs are called Rotarians.
There are two definitions of entrepreneurs; one has got to do with possession of enterprise and the other do with solving problems innovatively and being willing to take responsibility (risk) for the result.
The Rotary Club of Kigali Virunga is just over ten years old now. The club runs various projects. In association with sister clubs worldwide, it has built water wells in various parts of the country over the years. In-deed these Rotarians have just overseen a water project at Bisate in Kinigi, Musanze District.
They collaborated with Rotarians from Denmark and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to provide water to the villagers at the edge of Volcanoes National Park. Initially, during dry seasons, the villagers had been forced to invade the park in search of water, sparking off human- wildlife conflict.
That is now history. This was just one of the projects undertaken by this rotary club, but the flagship project is the construction of the first public library in Rwanda; the Kigali Public Library.
A group of ten to twenty people sitting down and planning an undertaking of this magnitude is sheer madness. Yet this is what these Rotarians did about eight years ago. It turned out beautifully and is a fine example of a public- private partnership.
The short story of it is that the government and SORWATHE as well as friends from all over the world were impressed and put in quite a bit of investment and the result is a beautiful building that is just opposite the American embassy that will soon contribute greatly to our reading culture.
They have not stopped at that, they mentor students through Rotaract and Interact clubs, feed orphans among other things and I’ll tell you this; they have a whole lot of fun while at it.
This story begs the question; should entrepreneurs or people with an entrepreneurial mindset be involved in socially beneficial projects? The answer is a resounding yes and not just for philanthropic reasons alone (and it is a great thing to be a do- gooder). It makes a lot of business sense too. We could go on and on giving many valid reasons for this but the bottom-line is, entrepreneurs live and work in the society. That is enough reason to contribute to the society’s development.
There are abundant opportunities in our country for entrepreneurs to make a significant impact on the society as a whole. Bearing in mind the numerous problems that we have that can be solved from an entrepreneurial angle rather than a bureaucratic approach, it is high time the private sector started considering social entrepreneurship as a key agenda to complementing the government’s programmes. With all this in context, this is probably the best time for social entrepreneurs to start a school to provide training and other opportunities to enable interested Rwandans to use their creative and entrepreneurial abilities more for social benefit.
It was this kind of perspective that inspired Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus to found the Graeme Bank in Bangladesh which sought to empower the poor by providing them with credit access.
It is unfortunate that the true drivers of social entrepreneurship have been completely overshadowed by projects managed by NGOs and other so called “charitable” organizations.
Sam Kebongo is a skills development and business advisory consultant. He teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. Comments to: