Entrepreneurs Make Shark Tank-like Pitches in Burundi

In Burundi, as in all countries, peace requires economic security: a base of stability for people to support themselves and pursue their dreams. While everyone shares this need, we all go about it in different ways.

Enter the entrepreneurs from Nd’umu DG (I´m a boss).

In Dec. 2020, Search for Common Ground launched a 12-episode show in Burundi modeled off Shark Tank, the hit American show. Young entrepreneurs make pitches to a panel of judges, hoping to secure key funding. The show “seeks to bridge social divides in the country and generates opportunities for youth.”

The contestants show that everyone has a different dream — and a different story of peace.

THINGS ARE GETTING SPICY

Emmanuel Niyibizi, 27

  • The problem: A local kind of chili pepper can give rich flavor to a dish, with a spice company in Rwanda selling the condiment throughout the region. Yet no one was selling the chili pepper in liquid form.
  • The solution: Emmanuel trained young people to cultivate chili, ginger, and onions, giving them needed capital and equipment. He is hoping that his company can keep up with the competitor from Rwanda.

THE GREAT SPAGHETTI CRAZE

Pascal Hakuziyaremye, unspecified

  • The problem: There is a craze in Burundi for spaghetti. However, many brands come from other countries, with transport and import costs.
  • The solution: Pascal is ready to work with ingredients available in Burundi to satisfy the spaghetti-mania.

KEEP IT CLEAN

Dorine Niyongabo, 30

  • The problem: Liquid soap is in high demand at hotels, restaurants, and carwashes in Burundi. However, the soaps produced by the brand Savonor can be expensive.
  • The solution: Starting with a focus on soap for cleaning and laundry, Dorine has since expanded to shower and hand-washing soap. “I chose to become self-employed to be free and not to be mistreated by an employer,” she said. “But also to earn a lot of money.

TOUGH AS LEATHER

Nadège Irakoze, 28

  • The problem: Cowhide sandals are popular in Burundi — but despite an abundance of cows, many sandals are important from abroad, leading to a high price tag.
  • The solution: Confident in leather-working, Nadège wants to make cowhide sandals in her own country. She is hoping to expand into bags and other products.

PINEAPPLE DREAMS

François-Xavier Kizoviyo, unspecified

  • The problem: While pineapple trees can thrive in the tropical environment of Burundi, some farmers are not able to use waste products such as pineapple juice.
  • The solution: Collecting the juice, François-Xavier can make pineapple wine and a ginger-flavored drink.

SOMETHING FISHY

Desiré Iradukunda, 31

  • The problem: In Bujumbura, perched on Lake Tanganyika, fishing offers a healthy source of income. But catching fish in the wild can be unpredictable, vulnerable to swings in the environment and month-to-month luck.
  • The solution: In vitro fertilization of fish can eliminate some uncertainty. With a steadier business model, Desiré can hire more young people to farm the fish.

PUT IN PLACE

Bizimana Method, 27

  • The problem: Finding a place to live can be stressful — especially in Burundi, which has the second-highest population density of any country in Africa, just behind Rwanda.
  • The solution: As a house commissioner, Bizimana has seen firsthand the challenges of the housing market. He is seeking to open a company to coordinate housing interest and openings.

THE SWEETEST THING

Christophe Irambona, 33

  • The problem: While many people in Burundi grow fruit, there are few factories to process the fruit into juice and turn a profit.
  • The solution: With two years of experience in Tanzania in the sugar cane industry, Christophe is ready to apply his expertise in Burundi, opening a factory in an area with abundant sugar cane and labor. Plus, he says, sugar cane has extra health benefits.

NOTHING WASTED

Elvis Bizimana, unspecified

  • The problem: Stationary stores can make beautiful invitations, cards, and more. They also create lots of waste paper.
  • The solution: Elvis aims to open a printing house that uses excess paper to make decorations and fans. Already, the nascent company has a computer and printer.

ON RECORD

Dieudonné Niyokwizera, 26

  • The problem: In a world with accelerating technology and shifting social bonds, social traditions can get left behind.
  • The solution: Film is a powerful way to forge collective history and bonds. Dieudonné is ready to produce documentary films on his culture, with a focus on ceremonies.

EQUAL ACCESS

Diane Akimana, 25

  • The problem: In Burundi, women face gender stereotypes in many areas of work, preventing them from rising into positions of power.
  • The solution: As the general manager of an association of women entrepreneurs, Diana is hoping to expand projects to Gitega, Ngozi, and Makamba. The work ranges from food processing to computer skills-training to recycling, but the goal is the same: “to show that women are capable of many things.”

PHONES INTO FORKS

Juste Darcy Ngabirano, 27

  • The problem: Electronics can go obsolete quickly, with the metal products piling up as waste.
  • The solution: Juste Darcy knows that the aluminum and copper from many products can go to producing everyday utensils. He is seeking funds to revive a recycling association that he started in 2016.

BUDDING TYCOONS

Déo Nduwayezu, 31

  • The problem: While many young people in Burundi have entrepreneurial ideas, only a few have business training.
  • The solution: Déo reseptents an association which welcomes and guides young people for entrepreneurship, teaching how to develop business plans and secure funding.

SKIN DEEP

Emmanuel Ntungwanayo, 30

  • The problem: When people experience diseases of the skin, the most powerful remedy is sometimes the simplest: high-quality soap.
  • The solution: Emmanuel has already trained young people to form soap production cooperatives; now, he is seeking support to grow his enterprise.

FUNGI FUNDING

Fabrice Niyongabire, 30

  • The problem: Packed with nutrients, mushrooms take time and expertise to grow.
  • The solution: Working through a local association, Fabrice has learned to cultivate mushrooms. Funding would help him to connect with more young people.

PIGS INTO PROFIT

Mireille Hatungimana, 33

  • The problem: Buying livestock is a major purchase — but once bought, animals can provide a steady source of income.
  • The solution: Mireille is already turning profit off pigs, earning enough to pay others to work in the fields and provide manure. The larger the farm, the more employees that she can employ.

IN THE BAG

Theogene Niyonkuru, 27

  • The problem: Once used and then released, plastic bags can cause a serious environmental hazard.
  • The solution: Theogene is committed to producing biodegradable bags, although it is a challenge to find raw materials. Funding would enable Theogene to purchase needed materials and employ several young people.

BETTER WITH AGE

Yvette Ndayizeye, 23

  • The problem: Wine production is a long process that requires an important but tricky step: filtering.
  • The solution: Since the age of 20, Yvette has worked on wine filtering, starting with initial capital of 25,000 Burundian francs ($12) and growing to employ several young people.

LIVESTOCK INVESTMENT

Noël Kwizera, 28

  • The problem: Working on a farm for someone else can mean long hours and tough conditions. Owning livestock can give valuable independence and comfort.
  • The solution: Noël is seeking to buy pigs, breeding them and extracting manure and meat.

INTERNET FAMOUS

Boris Irambona, 30

  • The problem: Internet networks and sales can often help a small business grow, but in Burundi, many young entrepreneurs were struggling to gain a foothold.
  • The solution: Boris wants to help businesses master digital promotion. “I chose this because I wanted to help young people to be entrepreneurs,” he said.

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