From June 2017 to January 2018, SPARK and BBIN, with support from UNDP, assisted 60 young people in creating SMEs and community action groups, as a way to develop civic youth leaders among Burundi’s youth. A total of 47 youth recently graduated from the Peace Builders Leadership Academy.

From team building by the shores of Lake Tanganyika, to sharing their successes with the media and receiving awards of excellence, the closing ceremony captured the best of these young entrepreneurs and community leaders. Ketty Ruhara, an SME development trainer and entrepreneur, lined up engaging activities for the soon-to-be graduates, in order to reflect upon the various leadership qualities they’d be taught throughout the training. The exercises ranged from strategic planning to communication, teamwork to negotiation skills.

During the ceremony, the young people had the chance to engage in discussions with several successful entrepreneurs from their communities. Krystal Shabani, the owner of Kabo Restaurant and Krysbel Designs; a fashion and personal branding consultancy service provider;  Cheko Yafeti, a Congolese migrant entrepreneur and founder of the Alchemist, a design and recycling company specialising in transforming plastic waste and tires; Shaquille Mugisha, an artist and architect who founded Shaqu’art a network of young Burundian artists; and Belyse Bushombo, the founder of Sisters In Success (SIS); an initiative to empower young girls in Burundi.

During the graduation ceremony, Bonaventure Nicimpaye, Intercontact Director, spoke of his principles for success over the past 30 years: “Look past certificates, diplomas, awards and other forms of recognition and instead aspire towards continuous lifelong learning.”

Secretary General of AFAB – Burundi’s leading women entrepreneurs network – Immaculée Nsengiyumva shared the genesis of AFAB and turning points that led to the representation of women in the chamber of commerce. “In the 80s, women were not allowed to open a bank account without the signature and support of a male figure.” She said, “Today, women of all ages should not be restricted by any stereotype when selecting a career path.”

Encountering early challenges

Despite the celebrations during the graduation of these new community youth leaders and entrepreneurs, the real challenges were yet to be faced. At least 13 of the 60 youth trained had returned to studying or to homes for young people who had migrated due to the 2015 socio-political crisis, so had discontinued their involvement in developing SME’s or community action groups. Those that had continued to venture into entrepreneurship found that they needed to rework their business plans in light of the under-staffing.

However, BBIN and SPARK teams arranged for business plan evaluation sessions in all regions so that the new entrepreneurs could address the necessary revisions for their business plans. Strategic planning meetings were also held with the remaining community leaders in order to restructure the groups since the departure of key members.

Thankfully, by addressing the issues early, the operational SMEs are starting to bare fruit. In recent weeks the young entrepreneurs have put in an increased number of loan requests to Micro Finance institutions. The quality of services provided by these young entrepreneurs is also expected to increase. Weekly and monthly coaching sessions will soon be introduced to provide tailored support for the youth in their next ventures.

New Peace Builders Leadership Academy for 2018

As the group enters a new phase in their journey to entrepreneurship and civic engagement, the time has come for the next group of 60 young leaders to be trained. In February 2018, we met with the Association of Scouts in Burundi (ASB) to begin identifying potential participants from the Bujumbura Rural region for the next Peace Builders Leadership Academy. In the following weeks, we’ll be doing the same in Bujumbura Mairie with the support of World Vision. Initially, 600 youth will be selected to begin cash for work projects, before 60 will be selected to join the academy in March 2018 in Cibitoke, Mugongo-Manga, Mukike, Musaga, Ngagara and Rusaka.  

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