AERG and SURF launched the first meeting of AERG Business Networking Club “Think Big: Growing Your Business in Rwanda”, a forum created to bring together youth, enterprise and innovators in Rwanda through informal networking events, on Friday (28th November 2014).  This successful event gathered over 70 individuals and businesses, with the aim of fostering linkages between young entrepreneurs, key stakeholders and government, to encourage Rwanda’s small business environment and to contribute to growth in the private sector.

The Business Networking Club, the first of its kind in Rwanda, was launched to bridge a gap between education and business and to link youth to business owners and to other prominent business in Rwanda. For young entrepreneurs who start businesses, no forum has previously existed for them to network, share lessons and collaborate with other successful business owners.

“We hope that this forum will foster lively exchange and ideas on the themes of innovation, creativity and business development, between youth and leading actors in Rwanda. This will not only support the growth of the businesses themselves, but will also contribute to the Rwandan economy and job creation”, stated Jean De Dieu Mirindi, National Coordinator of AERG at the event.

The AERG Business Networking Club is a component of the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme (YETP), a project developed in partnership with AERG and Survivors Fund. Since 2012, the YETP program has trained 600 youth to learn entrepreneurial skills, start businesses and access quality employment.

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The AERG/SURF Entrepreneurship Team. From left to right: Gama, Kelsey, Taziano, Jean Paul and Moses

At the event, two successful business owners spoke about how they built their businesses and overcame challenges. One of the speakers, Emmanuel Ngayaboshya, GAERG member and owner of the hit night club, Kaizen, explained the main lessons he learned through the development of his business, and emphasized the importance of networking in Rwanda.  A sector specific and free informal networking followed the speaker sessions.

 “Think Big: Growing Your Business in Rwanda” brought together over fifty businesses developed from the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme, in addition to notable, successful members of GAERG (the Graduate’s Association of Student Genocide Survivors) , members of leading companies, micro-finance institutions, and INGOs. In total, seventy people attended the event.

The Business Networking Club will continue to meet and bring together entrepreneurs every other month. This session was sponsored by Spark, a Dutch INGO that supports entrepreneurs and SME development in Rwanda and other regions of the world. SPARK develops higher education and entrepreneurship to empower young, ambitious people to lead their conflict affected societies into prosperity.