Niyikora vends airtime to pay his university tuition fees

Jean Bosco Niyikora, 25, never thought about setting up a business while growing up. The second year student of computer engineering at Independent Institute of Lay Adventists in Kigali (INILAK) was ‘forced’ to become an entrepreneur to raise money for tuition fees. 
Niyikora (centre) serves a customer. The enterprising youth has been able to fund his education using savings from airtime and airtel money agency sales. The New Times / Ben Gasore
Niyikora (centre) serves a customer. The enterprising youth has been able to fund his education using savings from airtime and airtel money agency sales. The New Times / Ben Gasore

We will be profiling young people who have conquered fear and ventured into the business world for the next 10 weeks. Today, Business Times’ Ben Gasore brings you the story of Jean Bosco Niyikora,25, an undergraduate student at Independent Institute of Lay Adventists in Kigali (INILAK). His is a story of resilience that has seen him raise money to pay his university tuition fees through airtime vending. Nominate enterprising youth today by sending email to: business@newtimes.co.rw 

Jean Bosco Niyikora, 25, never thought about setting up a business while growing up. The second year student of computer engineering at Independent Institute of Lay Adventists in Kigali (INILAK) was ‘forced’ to become an entrepreneur to raise money for tuition fees. 

“The thought of dropping out of school was too scary too handle. So, I vowed to do all in my power to raise the fees myself. Though it was very challenging, I believed it was a better option than dropping out of university,” Niyikora narrates the origin of his inspiration to join the business world.

That was in July last year. Presently, Niyikora has three outlets and is also an airtel money agent in Sonatubes town in Kicukiro District. 

Move pays off handsomely 

Niyikora could have stayed home, lamenting about his misfortune and the prospect of leading a doomed life as a university dropout. He, however, faced the challenge head-on and turned it into an opportunity.

“My relatives and friends thought I was out of my mind, arguing that it was an odd job for a university student. I ignored them and focused on my goal of raising money to pay tuition fees,” he narrates. 

Thanks to his persistence, Niyikora has emerged a much stronger person, rising from scratch to the success he enjoys today as one of the well-known telecom services’ provider.

“I started with just five airtime cards after a friend convinced me that I would make ‘good’ money if I persisted. So, I decided to give it a try...after all, there was more to gain than lose,” he says. 

Niyikora, who sells Airtel airtime cards and is also an airtel money agent for the firm, operates near Kigali University along Airport Road in Kicukiro. 

He says that besides selling airtime cards and running airtel money agencies, he recruits new subscribers and generally market telecom firm’s services.

“When I started, I could sell just a few SIM cards a day. With time, my sales increased and I sell an average of 20 cards daily apart from providing airtel money services.

“This improved my cash flow and I started attending lectures without fear that I would fail to raise fees,” he notes. 

He says he has gained skills in telecom products retailing and customer service, which attracts people to his stands. 

 Early breakthrough

When airtel money was launched, I applied for a dealership, he points out.

He says promotions, especially those about the airtel money service played a big role in growing the business. 

“The promotion attracted subscribers because Airtel offered a 150 per cent bonus on airtime each time one used airtel money to load airtime. Many people joined the network, boosting my earnings,” he says.

Earnings increase

On average, I retire with Rwf5,000 per day, of which I save Rwf1,000. With the savings, I was able to open two more outlets in the same locality, which has enabled me triple my daily earnings. But it was also to test his management skills, especially how to deal with problems. 

“When I opened the two outlets, the people I employed swindled Rwf1.2m from the business,” he says. 

He adds that though he fired them, he lost the money which was a huge setback. Niyikora says it is a big challenge to get the right employees. 

He also notes that rain disrupts his business a lot since his stands are in open air, like most of other dealers around Kigali.

 Personal development

Niyikora says he has bought a motorcycle that he uses as a taxi. 

“The motorcycle brings in Rwf3,000 every day. I hope to save enough money to rent a stall in a commercial building and partner with Airtel to expand my services further.” 

I am also now able to raise Rwf570,000 for my tuition fees per year and pay other bills with ease, he adds.

Advice to fellow youth

Just like I decided to take the bull by the horns when my parents failed to raise my university tuition fees, other youth who find themselves in a similar situation, should be creative. 

This way, they can always find means to earn a living and be able to cater for their life’s needs. 

“Remember, no one will come to your door-step to give you a job,” he counsels.

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