KAMENGE, Burundi – When Ramadhani Mbonankira was orphaned, the survival of his family was no longer a certainty.
Ramadhani, now 32, lives with his two brothers and two nephews in Kamenge, north of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. He had tried as best he could to initiate small businesses but without much success.
But since taking part in entrepreneurial skills training his life has changed completely – for the better.
About 100 young people were trained over six days to build their capacity in commercial and entrepreneurial techniques to create employment opportunities. This was organized by UNFPA Burundi in partnership with KCB Bank Burundi and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Employment.
After receiving the training, Ramadhani changed his way of thinking. He now sees himself as an entrepreneur with much to give.
Q: I am a great entrepreneur, and to recognize it has saved me.
“The biggest flaw I had was that I did not trust myself. I bought some material and became a DJ at home without much success. But in this training, we were first taught to believe in ourselves, in our abilities, in our ideas, and we were made to understand that the greatest wealth we have and that we must exploit, are our ideas.
“I had long believed that I am nothing without money, but now I have changed my mindset. The veil has fallen from my eyes. Now I know who I am! I am a great entrepreneur, and to recognize it has saved me.”
Q: I learned that I do not need a lot of money to start my business.
Convinced of his abilities and reassured that it does not require significant funding to begin to trade, Ramadhani launch his new career.
“I learned that I do not need a lot of money to start my business. Directly after the training, I searched for a little money and rented this little house to turn it into a recording studio, The Coco Finger Studio. This allowed me to have an address, to make myself known and to gain many customers. I make recordings of songs on CDs, phones and USBs.”
Because Ramadhani has a degree in computer maintenance, he carries out some repairs. He also gets asked to provide a sound system at festivals. And the new business skills he has acquired from the training have helped him manage his activities.
“I learned to save money. Before (the skills training) I told myself that there is no way to save when you have too little money. But now, as little as I might have, there is an amount that I always put aside as savings in order to meet future needs. Truly, this training saved me, and those close to me. At home we barely had anything to eat, but now we are able to eat every day. Sometimes we don’t eat until we are full, but we eat, and we know that tomorrow will be a better day.”
A sigh of relief for the family
Omar Nsabimana, 23, who is Ramadhani’s younger brother, said their family’s way of life has since changed.
“Through Ramadhani and his recording studio, we have had some respite. Now we eat without problems. Better yet, he pays my school fees. You can’t imagine how bad it is when you are given an ultimatum at school that you can’t take the exams without first paying the fees. I thank God for this improvement in our situation. My brother has become a mentor to me."
Entrepreneur and job creator
In the month after he received the training, Ramadhani managed not only to meet the basic needs of his family, but to create employment. To ensure his recording studio meets the needs of his customers, he took on his friend and neighbour, Corneille Niyonkuru, 22, as an employee. For Corneille this opportunity came at exactly the right moment:
Q; To succeed in paying for their basic needs of my son and his mother has enabled me to regain their family’s esteem and that of my community; and that is worth more than all the gold in the world.
“This work could not have been better timed. I manage to use my days constructively, unlike many other young people. With the salary I receive each month, I also manage to be autonomous. But in this job opportunity I earn more than a salary. I am already a father; I accidentally got a girl pregnant. She is in her final year (of studying). To succeed in paying for the education of my son and his mother, and also being able to provide for their basic needs, has enabled me to regain the esteem of the family of my son’s mother, and that of my community; and that is worth more than all the gold in the world," he said.
Ramadhani has other challenges to overcome but he feels reassured that he will do so. He shares the training he received with Omar and Corneille, so that they too can follow in his footsteps.
Fulfilling youth potential
The purpose of the training was to strengthen the young participants’ entrepreneurial skills; to help them develop business plans; to reinforce their knowledge on preventing HIV and AIDS, and preventing pregnancy; to strengthen their skills in the management of income-generating activities; to strengthen their savings and credit skills; and to strengthen skills in detecting the risks of bankruptcy, and adaptability. It presented an opportunity for these young people to open current accounts with banks or microfinance institutions.
The organizers of the entrepreneurial skills training remain committed to working closely with these young people. For UNFPA, the aim is to ensure that each young person fulfills their potential.
By Queen Nyeniteka