Young Visionary Scales Opportunities in Rwanda
A young entrepreneur, equipped with a new understanding, provides for his family and inspires a generation through his rock quarry business in Rwanda.
Sofia Gavefalk served as a TechnoServe Fellow from July to September 2018, working to capture lessons learned from STRYDE, TechnoServe’s flagship youth entrepreneurship program in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Prior to her Fellows assignment, Sofia worked as a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group.
A magnificent verdant valley serves as the backdrop to a bustling scene in Kayonza, Rwanda. Five women sit on the ground crushing stones into gravel, while further down the hill, a dozen young men excavate larger stones.
We are standing in a 1-hectare rock quarry owned by 28-year-old Callixte Kayiranga, and these men and women are among dozens of his employees. “At peak season I have over 60 people from the local area here working for me,” Callixte says. He maintains contracts with several construction companies that use the stones for various types of building projects.
It is almost difficult to imagine that only three years ago, this young man made his living by collecting taxes from these same trucks, earning 15,000 Rwandan francs (RWF), or roughly $16, per month.
“It wasn’t much but I was able to save around a third of the money each month while also helping to provide for my family,” Callixte says.
As an orphan with mainly younger siblings, Callixte was responsible for taking care of school fees and household expenses together with his older brother. He did not have the luxury of turning down a job just because the pay was low. “I was planning on doing that for five months to save money in order to start a small-scale quarry business myself,” he says. “However, I felt that I didn’t have the skills or confidence to actually be able to materialize my business idea.”
So when Callixte heard about STRYDE through his local youth center in 2015, he quickly registered for the program.
STRYDE, or Strengthening Rural Youth Development Through Enterprise, is TechnoServe’s flagship youth livelihoods and entrepreneurship program. It aims to help rural young people develop the necessary skills and knowledge that enable them to build prosperous livelihoods through both agricultural and non-agricultural economic activities. STRYDE’s comprehensive training program is strategically tailored to local economic opportunities and market needs, teaching skills ranging from financial literacy and business planning to leadership and personal effectiveness. After the success of the program’s first phase, which ended in 2015, STRYDE 2.0 has trained over 50,000 youth.
From Classroom To Quarry
Callixte reports that the sessions on setting targets and goals were among the most helpful. He also benefited from additional activities offered by the program after the three-month training. For example, STRYDE arranges learning trips where students are able to visit the enterprises of successful entrepreneurs – often STRYDE alumni – to hear their testimonies and get inspiration for starting their own business.
“It was during one of these learning trips where I actually saw with my own eyes that anything is achievable even with small means, as well as the importance of mixed livelihood and what that really means,” Callixte says. He met a successful large-scale entrepreneur who was working in fruit juice, poultry, and piggery.
“It was really important to get a real-life account from someone outside the classroom… It was the first time I had actually been able to meet, discuss, and brainstorm ideas with successful entrepreneurs,” he says.
After graduating from STRYDE, Callixte took the money he had been saving from his part-time work and leased a plot of land to launch his quarry dream, and quickly increased his income tenfold, bringing 150,000 RWF in profit each month.
After a year, Callixte was able to buy the full plot of land from the owner using profits from his quarry business. He credits his STRYDE training for this new mindset and approach to business growth: “I had learned from STRYDE that you should grow your income generating activities in incremental steps and reinvest the money you make from it.”
Today the quarry is thriving and expanding. Callixte earns on average around 800,000 RWF (nearly $900) in profit each month. His older brother has his own family, so Callixte is the main provider for his other siblings, and he is happy that he is able to cover all their school fees and inspire them for success. “The positive development I had experienced motivated my younger sister to partake in the fourth cohort of STRYDE,” he says. Meanwhile, his younger brothers are able to attend both secondary school and university.
Inspiring A Community
Not only has Callixte been able to help and provide for his family, the scale and impact of his entrepreneurial success has had ripple effects in the community. He mentors enterprising local youth by sharing knowledge he gained from STRYDE and his experience as an entrepreneur. The quarry provides stable employment opportunities for dozens of men and women. Callixte also started a security company in 2016 that employs young men to guard houses and buildings in the community.
I’ve taught my employees how they can save money from the salaries they get so that they can pursue their long-term goals – just as I did through STRYDE.”
His stature as a model entrepreneur in his family and community cannot be denied. “I am the youth leader in my sector and was regularly approached by young men in the community complaining about the lack of start-up capital that so often is needed in order to start businesses,” he reflects. “I saw a business opportunity in getting these people out of idleness and at the same time making a profit. I’ve taught my employees how they can save money from the salaries they get so that they can pursue their long-term goals – just as I did through STRYDE.”
In addition to his two businesses, Callixte also does poultry farming. “I got inspiration from the [learning] trip I did with STRYDE. Previously I had no idea about what mixed livelihood strategies to pursue nor how to carry them out.”
Callixte’s diversification strategy is not uncommon among successful youth entrepreneurs. Youth tend to add income streams to increase and stabilize income as well as reduce risks associated with their livelihood activities. This is also due to the fact that the financial barriers in starting new businesses are much lower than expanding existing ones.
Recognizing STRYDE’s uniquely effective blended approach, Callixte points out that livelihood programs should empower youth with both technical and soft skills, as well as hands-on experience that enable them to better manage their lives and livelihood outcomes. More than anything, Callixte reflects, being a successful entrepreneur requires the right mindset.
“Youth in Africa really need to build the right confidence in that anything is possible even without a lot of capital,” he offers. “It just takes some very simple skills, a general understanding about saving money, and some business sense.”