Change in Burundi and beyond: "It's possible"—CDE wins 2018 Africa Liberty Award

CDE Great Lakes 2

Centre For Development and Enterprises Great Lakes has won Atlas Network’s 2018 Africa Liberty Award for its Birashoboka project. The term “birashoboka” is a local Kirundi word from Burundi that means “it’s possible.” The goal of the campaign is to make it possible for Burundian, Rwandan, and Congolese entrepreneurs to thrive within their communities.

“This award represents a great victory for the efforts of a team passionate about social change through free enterprise that will bring dignity to many people,” said Aimable Manirakiza, founder and CEO of CDE–Great Lakes. “We have been working for some time on our ‘Birashoboka’ campaign with some success thanks to the support of Atlas Network but today we know that our efforts will go beyond Burundi for a free Africa.”

Birashoboka is laid out in two parts. The first involves selecting, training, and assisting potential entrepreneurs in good business practices so that their businesses are able to thrive within their communities. The second involves strategic reforms aimed at improving scores on the Doing Business Index on which Burundi is currently ranked 186 out of 190. This poor ranking is due to the rigorous 10 step process that is required to start a business. As a result, many would-be entrepreneurs move to the informal economy. In addition, the Birashoboka project seeks to change banking practices in order to ease the process of opening accounts.

Atlas Network staff with Aimable Manirakiza, founder and CEO of the 2018 Africa Liberty Award Winner CDE–Great Lakes.

CDE–Great Lakeshas already had success in both parts. More than 1,500 entrepreneurs have been educated on the specific challenges they face. The Ministry of Commerce has eased the burden of registering businesses by reducing the start up cost from 140,000 francs (USD $78) to 40,000 francs (USD $22) in Burundi. Also, banks have sought ways to better serve their clients by streamlining the process and allowing people to set up accounts over the phone, as well as developing unique accounts for entrepreneurs.

“At the beginning of our ‘Birashoboka’ campaign, we had some reform success in favor of the ease of doing business in Burundi, especially with the reduction of the fees required to register a company in Burundi,” stated Manirakiza.“Previously, these fees stifled enormously the entrepreneurial spirit in the country. It went from requiring 99.125 percent of the average income per person to start a business, to 96.96 percent thanks to our many strategies. Even though we have had this impact and other results on the reduction of the steps of a bank account creation and some reforms of the Burundian banking system, the victory of our fight is just beginning because the average income rate remains one of the weakest in the world according the doing business.”

CDE–Great Lakes’campaign combined education and public awareness in order to push for policy and institutional changes within Burundi. These impacts will make it easier for entrepreneurs to start their business and positively contribute to their communities.

The Regional Liberty Award program was made possible through the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation