The BDC Pioneers: Advancing Entrepreneurship in Rwanda & Beyond

By Jason Benedict

When RCE first started the Rwanda Business Development Center (BDC) in Kigali, Rwanda, it was as a way to help Rwandan entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.  One of the serendipitous outcomes of the BDC is the number of our graduates who are paying it forward by advancing entrepreneurship even further in some way.  Without ever having this as a formal goal, the BDC has been an incubator and accelerator of these efforts. Below is a brief summary of some of their efforts:

  1. In addition to operating their growing bakery business, Serge (Cohort 3) and his wife run a ministry for street children, providing micro-entrepreneurship training, job skills training, and marketing for the carpentry and handicrafts these beneficiaries produce.
  2. Germaine (Cohort 1), a serial entrepreneur in her own right, is working in business development for a venture capital firm.  She co-founded the “Generation Rwanda Entrepreneurship Club” which is focused on promoting entrepreneurship with survivors of the Rwandan genocide.  She said, “Thank you so much BDC, the knowledge I got from the training is the main thing contributing to what I am doing now!  I am able to perform well [in business development and entrepreneurship] even though I am a medical person [by training].”
  3. Patrice (Cohort 1) has an aggressive vision to promote entrepreneurship.  He saw an opportunity to extend an existing program for college students, the Africa Incentive Prize, into Rwandan high schools.  His project is now in 15 Rwandan high schools and growing rapidly.
  4. After graduating from the BDC, Pascal (Cohort 1) was hired by the Private Sector Federation (PSF) as a small business consultant, and tasked with promoting entrepreneurship initiatives and providing PSF sponsored consulting to small and medium businesses.  He recently spearheaded a business plan competition in Kigali. He also serves as one of the BDC’s teaching assistants.
  5. Jean Claude (Cohort 2) works with the Rwanda Development Board (somewhat like our SBA) , and oversees government centers tasked with providing business development services.
  6. Pastor Tito (Cohort 1) has a program to provide church-based entrepreneurship training. Since its beginning, he has trained 40 aspiring entrepreneurs in three different churches.
  7. After graduating from the BDC, Venuste (Cohort 1) developed a micro-entrepreneurship training curriculum for an NGO he works with called YES Rwanda.
  8. Henry (Cohort 1) was hired by the Ugandan Private Sector Federation as their Director of Training after graduating from the BDC. He is currently overseeing entrepreneurship training for this nation.
  9. Grace(Cohort 2) started an online magazine called Identity 250 that showcases stories of Rwandan entrepreneurship and encourages a culture of entrepreneurship in Rwanda.
  10. Fabrice(Cohort 1), one of our All Stars, operates a successful medical supply distributorship, has served as the president of Junior Chamber International Rwanda (JCI) and as the Vice President of JCI Africa/Middle East. JCI is a conduit for many entrepreneurship trainings. Even though his business has taken off and requires more of his time, he remains active in the JCI organization throughout Africa.
  11. Mathilde (Cohort 2) owns and operates a food service company.  In addition to this, she and her husband run a ministry called Jireh Center that helps widows and poor mothers provide better nutrition to their children through nutrition training.  They have also started providing job training and micro-enterprise skills training to these disadvantaged women.
  12. Jimmy(Cohort 4) is a music producer with a heart for entrepreneurship.  He changed his business model to include an empowerment element that helps other grass-roots producers get their projects off the ground using Jimmy’s equipment and facilities.

Thanks to all of the above entrepreneurs who have played such a pinnacle and divine role in the growth of the BDC in Rwanda.

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