The Great Lakes region in Africa includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. The lake countries face low incomes, high corruption, and little economic freedom. An Atlas Network partner, the Centre for Development and Enterprises (CDE) Great Lakes, is pursuing serious change in the region.
“The Great Lakes region is facing a sharp decline in various indices of democracy and liberty compared to other countries in the world,” said Aimable Manirakiza, founder and CEO of CDE Great Lakes. “This is a challenge to individual freedom, the rule of law, free enterprise, private property, and economic stagnation that leaves the region in despair, given the level of average income per capita.”
Throughout April, CDE held numerous events in the three countries through their Great Lakes Academy 101 program. The CDE team organized events in Goma, the economic capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kigali, the capital of Rwanda; and Burundi. The programs attracted an audience of nearly 400.
“The general purpose of CDE Great Lakes Academy 101 is to change the climate of ideas in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” continued Manirakiza. “We hope to have achieved a change of mentality that stresses the importance of individual liberty, property rights, limited government, free trade, and the rule of law in the region. We have already achieved visibility for our target groups through media coverage. We have also reached new activists and advocates for liberty in each country.”
CDE organized events and training with target groups to inspire and inform them about the principles necessary for a free society and the benefits of free markets. The events also featured conference-debates with students, entrepreneurs, university professors, bloggers, journalists, and administrative authorities.
“Working with Atlas Network, our organization has been able to improve its vision of a strong organization by effectively evaluating the impact of our work in Francophone Africa and the Great Lakes region,” said Manirakiza. “Our organization was also able to benefit from Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy training program, which has given us [the ability] to build a movement of freedom in the region through long-term programs and visions. Working with Atlas Network makes it possible to attract other financial partners to our future programs.”
CDE Great Lakes is also embarking on their Birashoboka (it’s possible) and Great Lakes Entrepreneurship Academy campaigns. Through these programs, CDE conducts direct discussions with policymakers about the measures that they can take to reduce regulatory costs. CDE also organizes workshops on regulatory relief in Burundi, which feature collections of testimonials and short videos from Burundian entrepreneurs who overcame bureaucratic pitfalls.