‘After dropping out of school, Dusengimana’s future looked bleak; he decided to turn it around by taking on a job that many youths his age despise; ferrying people on a bicycle. He has now accumulated some fortune and the sky is the limit for the 30-year-old.
FOR about 18 years now, Theoneste Dusengimana has been riding a bicycle on the streets of Huye and Gisagara districts in the Southern Province ferrying passengers to earn a living.
When he narrates his tale and how a bicycle has transformed his life, the 30-year-old resident of the remote Gasagara village in Gikonko, Gisagara District, exudes confidence, hope and a passion for the job he says has turned around his life.
The New Times talked to Dusengimana just days after Police announced that it is reviewing existing instructions governing use of bicycles on main roads as part of efforts to ensure road safety.
His story is that of resilience mixed with passion and hard work which has earned him the status of a ‘respectful and relatively well-off’ man in his village. And though he has gone a long way in building a relatively prosperous life, his determination to better his living conditions remains astounding.
Dusengimana is one of the members of a cooperative based in Huye’s Rusatira Sector which brings together over 100 young commercial cyclists trying to improve their living conditions by ferrying passengers and their loads to several parts of Huye and Gisagara, particularly in the rural sectors of Rusatira and Gikonko.
Dusengimana first hit the road as a teenager. At the time, he had just finished his primary school education, but due to lack of school fees, he missed the opportunity to further his education.
Left in the village wondering how his future would look, Dusengimana decided to own his destiny.
At a tender age of 13, he took a difficult path of ferryng people to earn a living.
In the beginning, Dusengimana worked for a resident of his village, working on different light tasks on a daily basis–including ferrying goods on a bicycle.
From his first wages, he saved some little money and about three years later, he bought his own bicycle.
The acquisition was a great achievement for a man who had started from scratch.
However, he was not a naive teenager, he says. He knew many challenges lay ahead. He was equally aware that he had to work hard and maintain high levels of discipline if he was to be successful.
“I was determined to change the course of my life and I believed in my capacity to do so,” Dusengimana says.
“I knew from the beginning that I was the sole custodian of my destiny,” he adds.
Having grown up in a rural setting, where bicycles are the main form of transport, Dusengimana saw the bicycle as an opportunity to transform his life.
Pedalling to success
Eighteen years down the road, Dusengimana still operates a bicycle, plying bumpy and sometimes potholed murram roads as he ferries passengers from one place to another.
On a good day, Dusengimana earns between Rwf2,000 and Rwf3000, an amount he says is enough if well-managed.
“Using my earnings, I have been able to buy myself good trousers and shoes in our markets,” the married father of one boasts.
The young man owns a four-room residential house complete with electricity.
He also keeps a cow and a pig and owns about half an acre of land in his village where he grows cassava to supplement his income.
“All that has been possible thanks to the money I get from cycling,” he says.
But how did he accumulate all that fortune in a field many young men despise?
“All it takes is discipline, hard work and avoiding wasting money on such things as drugs,” he says.
“I promised myself to never abuse drugs and I have been successful. I only take tea and this has helped me think big and properly manage my resources.”
Looking to the future
But Dusengimana’s journey has not been a bed of roses either. He recounts several incidents which have derailed his plans, with the biggest being a conman who defrauded him about Rwf500, 000 a few years ago.
“I still remember that ordeal with bitterness. But as long as I am alive, nothing will stand in my way,” he says.
Dusengimana is now looking forward to moving to a new field with hope of taking his life to the next level.
“I am in the bicycle business for two more years after which I will venture into a new field,” he says.
He says he will use his savings to either invest in commercial motorcycle riding (better known as Taxi-Moto), or venture in the trade of second-hand clothes.
“I am yet to decide which way I will take,” he says.
To other young men, Dusengimana has a piece of advice.
“Avoid drug abuse and never despise any job. Above all, always endeavour to save on what you earn however little it may be,” he advises.