Colleagues looked around at each other in surprise when team members in the SPARK Rwanda office erupted into applause. A three way call between SPARK colleagues in Rwanda and the Netherlands, as well as the Youth Business International (YBI) team in the London, UK sealed the deal: SPARK Rwanda became a the latest member of Youth Business International (YBI).
YBI is a global network organisation that supports young entrepreneurs through its 50 members across 47 countries. We share the common goal of supporting young entrepreneurs around the globe. Where previously, youth within fragile or conflict affected regions were sometimes out of reach, YBI’s impact can now be extended to them through SPARK, in a cost effective and lower risk approach. We hope to utilise the network to spread news amongst YBI members of our entrepreneurship development opportunities, engage in valuable knowledge exchange and experience, and collaborate with international entrepreneurship experts on joint funding and other projects.
Since the partnership with SPARK Rwanda was announced, YBI conducted a Due Diligence survey of our organisation. In Rwanda, the YBI team took a trip to Rwanda to meet three successful entrepreneurs that have benefited from previous SPARK programmes, such as MSF2.
Chicken farmer with passion
Marcel Izabayo was one of them. He had initially purchased his first 40 chickens out of self-sufficiency. As he slowly became less cash-strapped, he was able to sell some of his produce – chickens and eggs – at the local market (a 3 hour round trip by bicycle). Marcel wanted to grow his business, so in 2015 he partook in SPARK’s MFS2 programme, which offered business trainings to existing MSMEs.
Today, Marcel employees three local people, owns 200 chickens, which produce between 160-180 eggs every day! Of course, challenges for him persist, like understanding when the chickens have diseases. But following the training, Marcel has professionalised his bookkeeping and management, and learnt how to recognise when the produce is scarce and when he has to call the veterinarian for a check-up.
During the visit, Marcel told YBI representatives: “I am now able to translate my plans into clear and realistic steps, I am still tracking every move in my business.”
By improving his livelihood and knowledge in his field, as well as provide stability for his loved ones, Marcel has become a central figure in the community. Young people reach out to him for advice and he supplies chicken manure to other locals to use as soil fertiliser.
Full and fruitful partnership
YBI partners with donors that provide capacity building to it’s members free of charge. One such donor, Accenture, recently provided an intensive Training of Trainers for not only the SPARK Rwanda team, but also SPARK Burundi and other YBI Africa members. We were delighted to meet up in Kigali in May to be trained on how to create more innovative and interactive training styles so that we can train young entrepreneurs in a more conducive learning environment. It also added richness to knowledge sharing and relationship building between SPARK and the other YBI members.
A long time coming
The partnership marks a long history of collaboration between SPARK and YBI. For several years both organisations have participated in each other’s conferences and workshops, such as the SPARK annual IGNITE conference in Amsterdam and the YBI member workshop in Paris in 2016. The latter even led to the forming of a consortium partnership between YBI and SPARK on an EU-funded programme, EMEN-UP, based in Europe from 2017-2020.
Since SPARK is operating across 17 regions, all of which are fragile or conflict-affected or hosting nations for refugees, there are many opportunities for entrepreneurship to fill a gap in youth unemployment, create jobs and allow people to contribute to their struggling local economies. We’re so excited to be reaching new networks and expanding our knowledge with the support of YBI.