Team Rwanda: Last 2 days.

Wednesday 2

Josel makes some adjustments to some of his slides.

Wednesday 1

Final data crunching



Kurt and Erin discuss some salient points


A toast! We are heading into halftime with a very clear idea of what we need to do come the 2nd half. It has been a tremendously enriching experience. Business on the Front-Lines impacts you, but Rwanda embraces you and changes you forever. Rwanda is rich in culture a fact that can often get overlooked. We have enjoyed the food, the music, the dances, the laughter and even the tears.  Rwanda is a vibrating country that is fast accelerating.

We spend most of the 2nd last day doing data analysis and prepping our initial presentation in this 15-week journey. When you follow the ‘evidence’ it sometimes will lead to places you did not expect. This is what began to happen as we crunched the research data, we found that several ideas that were coming forth were either ideas that we had not even considered or some that we had discounted.

In between we had two meetings one with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the other with the Rwanda Ministry of Youth and ICT. The ministry has 3 strategic focuses: finance, information, and markets. We discussed entrepreneurship development, business case competitions, and a special bank lending program for youth that doesn’t require immediate payback, giving the youth an opportunity to develop their ideas. One interesting thing that we learned is that Windows will be launching in the Kinyarwanda language soon. We spent the rest of the night finalizing the presentation.

Thursday 4

Muriel and Angelique, CRS Rwanda employees who doubled up as our translators during the market research.

Thursday 5

Anne makes a point during the presentation.

Thursday 7

An attentive audience.

Thursday 3

Time to say ‘Murakoze’ and ‘Murebeho’ (Kinyarwanda for ‘Thank you’ and, ‘Goodbye’) from us and from CRS Rwanda staff led by Country Director LeAnn Hager.

Thursday 1

Sitting down to dinner after presentation.


A toast!


On our last day we did our presentation, which ran over 2 hrs due to questions asked during the presentation and towards the end.  The CRS Rwanda team is eager to use our feedback on some of the tools they are using for market assessment and have scheduled a conference call for Friday March 22, 2013, to discuss some immediate changes they can make. In the meantime we will spend the next four weeks preparing our final report. We are only halfway done but we deserved a toast.

We were able to make it in time for our flights and off back to school where classes start on Monday 18th March 013

Team Rwanda: Day 10

Farmer 1

Francois who graciously allowed us into his day explains several points

Farmer 3

further explanations..

Farmer 2

Making sure that he gets his points across.


Working farmer

Ben tries his hand at tilling, albeit for a very short time.

In seeking to understand the youth’s customer more, the team sought a different approach to gaining insights. What are the customer’s points of pain? Are they even aware of this pain or have they become too accustomed to it. How do we find this out? What opportunities can the youth then exploit in trying to ease the pain and fill a latent need? One of the team members set off to spend a day with a farmer to accomplish this. It was an interesting and different experience for him even though he had grown up on a rural farm. Out of this we discovered several points that the youth could help ease the effort energy,, capital, and time that the farmer expends trying to compensate for the shortfalls in value addition and delivery.. Amongst the points was the amount of milk that is wasted due to the farmer not being able to sell it all on a day to day basis.

Tuesday 6

Hercules! Hercules!

Tuesday 5

One of the workers at the brick and tile-making cooperative

Tuesday 4

Busy at work.

Tuesday 3

The team gets to observe the process at a close range.

Tuesday 2

Gathering more insights.

The rest of the team visited a banana cooperative, a brick and tile-making cooperative, and did a youth focus group session.  They were taken through the process of beer making, where they observed the brick making from clay to the final brick. They also saw first hand the hazards of the venture when a heavy storm washed away the previous day’s clay bricks output worth over 5 days of earnings. The team also conducted a youth focus group trying to understand how they (youth) started a business; qualified for a loan or other capital I sources.


It doesn’t look like Anne will be leaving Rwanda anytime soon.

So here we are, quickly approaching the end of our stay in Kigali Rwanda but having already fallen in love with the place.

Team Rwanda: Day 9

After a weekend of amazing scenery and sights we went right back to work and started the  2nd and last week of our visit to Rwanda. This week we focus on identifying any information gaps identified after the 1st week. In the process we will confirm and test new assumptions developed over the last few days. We are also expanding our understanding of the farmer’s ecosystem by talking to cooperatives as we seek to identify opportunities for the youth in the agriculture value chain.

So once again we headed off to the rural area for more information and insights. The visits planned were to district cooperative officials and several cooperatives’ management teams. The Cooperative officer of Kamonyi distict, explained to us the priorities in his region and the challenges they were facing in trying to strengthen existing cooperatives through membership growth and education.

The manager of one of the maize cooperatives mentioned maize storage capacity as being one of their major challenges. The tin cooperative mentioned modern equipment as a critical factor to enable better safety and faster extraction of mineral.  All these present potential business opportunities for the youth whether it’s providing storage services or buying and selling basic mining equipment that can be easily sourced globally.

It was a fruitful day and we feel we are getting closer to a few ideas for further analysis and recommendation.


Erin and Shubi talk to bicycle coop members.

Monday 2

The teams talks to bicycle coop members.

Monday 3

Shubi gets down to work.

MOnday 4

Erin and Angelique gather insights from the youth.

Monday 5

Josel and Ben pose for a pic with members of the Tin Cooperative

Monday 6

A tin mining site on the side of a hill.

TIn miner

A tin miner shows us some of his harvest after 3 days.

Ben football

Team Rwanda on the way to its 4th consecutive ‘world cup’ title.


Team Rwanda: Day 7, 8.

Jumping Giraffes smallest

Jumping with Giraffes!

For our first week in Rwanda we met with government officials, co-operative management and rural youth. Overall we have gained a new appreciation for some of the more intangible challenges that accompany international development work. We have found that many of our basic assumptions are irrelevant given cultural context, logistical challenges or the regulatory environment, and we are working hard to anticipate what other unexpected challenges might await us this week. So when the weekend we were eager for some rest and recreation

Gorilla 4

Who’s Kurt looking at?

Gorilla Kurt

Oh..oh! him?


Easy now Kurt!

Big Gorilla

He doesn’t look too happy!

Gorilla Group 4

Let’s hide! he won’t see us!

Traditional dance

Beautiful traditional Rwandese dance and music!

Mountain Gorilla

The Gorilla epic experience!

We set out to appreciate the country from one side to the other! On Friday Emily, Erin, Kurt and Anne left for Volcano National Park, which borders Uganda, for a trek to see the silver backed gorillas. The gorillas can only be seen in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda and only about 60 visitor permits are issued per day in Rwanda. There are nine families of gorillas in Rwanda and after a trek into the mountainous rainforest, visitors are allowed to spend one hour with a designated family in their natural habitat. Our family did not disappoint! We found them during playtime, and we frequently had to jump out of the way as they came swinging or scampering towards us. Kurt didn’t move fast enough, so much to his surprise, he got a gentle nudge from the gorilla barreling through our group! Overall, it was an excellent experience and not to be missed for anyone visiting Rwanda.

Ben 2

All set for Akagera National Park.

Ben 1

Arrived in the evening to a warm dinner.

Ben 5

Nice tented lodge.

Ben 4

Inside the tented lodge.

Erin 4

An early morning breakfast before the game drive.

Truck shot Kurt


Hippos 2

Oops somebody is not happy!

Hippos 3

Somebody is really not happy!


Antelopes and Waterbucks enjoying the life.

Akagera 2

Zebras taking a stroll.

Akagera 3

Giraffes going to quench their thirst at a nearby watering hole.

Akagera 4

Scenic Akagera


Erin 3

Kurt tracking our every movement.


Truck shot

What a weekend!


On Saturday the whole team drove to the other side of the country to visit Akagera National Park. Akagera borders Tanzania and the landscape is a stark contrast to the rest of Rwanda. Where Rwanda is lush rolling hills, Akagera is savannah grass and plains.

We stayed in a tented lodge and had a great time chatting around the fire at night before rising early for a game drive. Our finds included hippos, zebras, and baboons, but the highlights were the giraffes!

Richard, the (wonderful!) owner/operator of the tour company we used for the weekend shared with us his experience in Rwanda, including the genocide and how it had impacted him. He is now educated as a lawyer, owns a successful tour company with his wife, and is raising his two young sons in Rwanda!

We are looking forward to another week of hard work in the field. Highlights will include Ben spending a day with a farmer and the team speaking with Rwandan youth developing agriculture applications at an entrepreneurial incubator in Kigali. More updates coming soon! Thank you everyone for the encouragement!

Team Rwanda: Day 6

We spend the early part of the morning visiting one of the church memorials of the genocide and talking to survivors. One of the questions the team asked was how the survivors had been able to forgive the perpetrators to which they responded that it was difficult but aided by the perpetrators coming to them to seek forgiveness. It was a powerful moment being at this site ( For the team it only puts the work we are doing in perspective. Both Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Collier in their books End of Poverty and The Bottom Billion respectively make a a casual link between poverty and conflict. Perhaps in our own small way we are contributing towards reducing the chances of this happening again.

We spent the rest of the day meeting company officials of the Rwanda Trading Company  and Karisimbi Business Partners to get their perspectives on where opportunities lie for the rural youth. Many of the ideas suggested involved trade, and increasing agricultural  productivity supported by education.

The team gets to spend some rest and recreation for the weekend. Some members are headed to do the Gorilla Trek, and will join the rest of the team for a visit to the Akagera National park. We will post some photos.

Day 6 photo 2

Ntarama Church where more than 5,000 people were killed in the 1994 genocide while they sought refuge inside.

Day 6 photo

Talking to some of the survivors who live next to the church.


Team Rwanda: Day 3, 4, 5.

We are finally back! Over the last eventful three days we have been deep in the rural section of Rwanda with no internet access, gaining more information and insights on agribusiness opportunities for the youth. At the beginning of the class, Professor Emily Block had told us that the only constant would change-we would need to change schedule and mindsets on a regular basis. This has been our reality for the last last 3 days.

We split into two groups (Kurt, Shubi, Erin, and Emily for the Ruhango district, Anne, Josel and Ben for the Kamonyi district). Each group performed research with youth focus groups, government officials, farmers, and market observations & visits.

At one time we had a three-way translation happening: French to Kinyarwanda, Kinyarwanda to English, English back to French.

We debriefed at the end of each day over drinks and dinner ending with the question, what new information would we be seeking the next day. Following are the last 3 days in pictures.


Counting Money

This looks like a scene from ‘Oceans Eleven’!, it’s actually ‘Team Rwanda Seven’ counting money after changing a large amount of US dollars into the local currency.

Meeting District

In one of the meetings with the local government officials.


Debriefing after a long day.


About to set off for the rural areas.

Annie 2

Low tech data mining. Anne and Erin (from CRS) get down to gathering insights after a youth focus group session.

Anne 3

Anne telling a story with her photos.

erin photo

After one of the youth focus group sessions





A picture worth a thousand words.


Market 4

Baskets ready for sale at the weekly market.



Shubi sharing.



Off to observe, ask, and learn.

Market 6

In one of the meetings with the local cooperatives.

Erin Today

Another picture worth a thousand words.

Ben n Josel

Josel and Ben..

Debrief 2

Debriefing back in Kigali on day 5.




Team Rwanda: Day 2


The team looking very fresh in the morning as they were being driven to the CRS offices – We decided not to show the after-photo on the way back to the hotel (after over 14 non-stop hours going through tools, strategies, objectives, etc)

Finally we were able to put faces to the various ‘names’ we had been communicating with over the last few weeks. Making a country visit and having face-to-face meetings makes all the difference in relationship building. We were able to meet the many talented and wonderful people working at CRS Rwanda. CRS Rwanda is accomplishing a lot of wonderful with programs ranging from Health, HIV/AIDS and Nutrition to Peace building, to Entrepreneurship and capacity building.

Over the course of the day, we were able to go through the Akazi Kanoze project that we have been working in more detail unlike in the past few weeks when we were limited by the teleconferences or emails. The session served to make further clarifications and ensure that all the teams involved were well aligned.

We received further information on the Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC), self run savings group run by members of the community. This will act as the source of funds for the income generating opportunities along the agriculture value chain that we will identify.

We refined a lot of the market research questions we will be asking during tomorrow’s visit to government officials and youth focus groups.

This is the moment when we discover new insights that lead to innovations.

Find out what we discover.


Team Rwanda: Day 1


Only a few hours after arriving we were off to an early morning church service followed by lunch at Hotel Des Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda) with our hosts Catholic Relief Services. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Kigali Genocide Memorial, a heavy and emotional experience. We later went to dinner at Heaven Restaurant in Kigali with Josh Ruxin who oversees the Millennium Development Village in Rwanda.

During our time here Team Rwanda will seek to: identify business opportunities in the agriculture value chain for rural youth in Rwanda.

The questions we will have to deal with include what opportunities would interest the youth? How do we scale the opportunities identified?Over the next several days we are going to test and retest the assumptions we have made in the last few weeks. This will be through rigorous research, and daily evening reviews amongst our selves. In between we will visit more of the genocide memorials,  Akegera National Park, and do the Gorilla Trekking in Ruhengeri.

We have done the thinking and analysis, now we execute and adjust. Come along on this exciting journey.

Meet Team Rwanda!

Team Rwanda

Muraho! (Kinyarwanda for ‘Hello there’) Team Rwanda has been tried, tested and found ready! Follow how we are faring over the next few weeks through this blog, our facebook, and on twitter @BizOTFrontlines



Erin Hoekstra
Hometown: Holland, MI
ND Program: MBAMarketing and Business Strategy
Background: Non-Profit Marketing, Public Policy,and Politics
Fun fact: Was assistant tennis coach at Wheaton College
Why BOTFL:  Perfect Combination: Faith/Business/Non-Profit/Service



Shubham Amatya
Hometown: Kathmandu
ND Program: Masters in International PeaceStudies
Background: Four years experience in conflict analysis in Nepal and the Philippines
Future plans: Post conflict development
Fun fact: Tried playing drums- her mom paid her a dollar a day (to NOT play!!!)
Why BOTFL? To explore avenues to make human development possible through economic security



Kurt Wilson
Hometown: Springfield, IL
ND Program: MBA Business Leadership Concentration
Background: ACNielsen BASES and US Army
Future plans: US Army
Fun fact: Can speak Chinese
Why BOFTL? to learn more skills and tools that more effectively serve post conflict societies



Anne Wilson
Hometown: Seattle
ND Program: MBA Finance
Background: corporate finance with Boeing
Future plans: consulting
Fun fact: Has solved a Rubik’s cube
Why BOFTL? opportunity to use my MBA in service


Ben Murunga
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
ND Program: MBA Finance
Background: Marketing
Future plans: Consulting/Finance
Fun fact: Has climbed Mt Kenya
Why BOFTL? An excellent opportunity to demonstrate that businesses exist to serve the community.



Josel Nivera Mostajo
Hometown: Alangalang, Leyte, the Philippines
ND Program: LLM International Human Rights Law
Background: government lawyer for the Office of the President of the Philippines
Future plans: Assume my post as a lawyer at the Office of the President of the Philippines
Fun fact: Master cook
Why BOTFL? Because its a unique subject which broadens my horizon


Faculty Advisor: Bill Nichols
Professor: Accountancy
Mendoza College of Business