Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills, is forging new opportunities for entrepreneurs

This is part of our series celebrating the unifying spirit of the summer games. Rwanda is one of 28 Kiva countries that have never won a medal, so we’re rallying to show our support through loans this month! Team Kiva for the win!

The games represent the ultimate test of physical strength, speed and ability. But underneath the sweaty, muscled exterior lies something even more critical and universal to the human experience: the importance of mental resolve.

The 2 million Kiva entrepreneurs fighting for a better future for themselves and their families truly know the meaning of never giving up, and the 46,000 Kiva borrowers in Rwanda are no exception.

They’ve had to overcome a dark chapter of their history – in 1994 the devastating Rwandan genocide resulted in the loss of nearly 800,000 lives– but they are forging a new path with determination and hope.

Today, the Rwandan government is actively encouraging the growth of entrepreneurship, and it shows in the range of Kiva's Field Partners in the country – from organizations like African Entrepreneur Collective supporting youth entrepreneurs to organizations like Kepler, providing quality education to low-income students. Kepler’s Kiva loans provide laptops to these students, many of whom are young adults who were orphaned by the genocide 2 decades ago.

Rwanda, known as the land of a thousand hills is a small, landlocked country in the center of Africa and more than 70% of Rwanda's population lives in rural areas. About 90% rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. Kiva partners like Urwego Opportunity Bank, VisionFund Rwanda and African Entrepreneur Collective work directly with smallholder farmers and cooperatives to improve their outputs and ultimately their incomes.

Clean energy social enterprises like Nuru Energy and Inyenyeri are partnering with Kiva and working to curb deforestation in Rwanda's vast forests, home to chimpanzees and the endangered mountain gorillas. Rwanda's mountain gorilla conservation program and responsible tourism program have been lauded by environemental experts around the world.

In Kigali, the country’s capital, one Kiva entrepreneur and mother of 7 named Epiphanie epitomizes the determination it takes to face the challenges in her daily life. She has one leg but never lets that fact slow her down.

“Life is not always easy,” she warns, “You need to have a strong mind - and never give up. You have to believe you can do anything.”

Epiphanie maintains this attitude despite her demanding work and parental duties. She’s overcome the many obstacles to obtaining the capital needed to build a business in Rwanda and developed a thriving butchering shop over the span of 10 years with the help of her partner Rehema, her 6 employees, and several Kiva loans providing her with the funds to purchase more cows and meat.

Epiphanie demonstrates the power of a strong-willed mind, the strength of a dream, and the much-needed lift that borrowers receive by way of a Kiva loan.

Much like the crowd that stands behind an athlete - the joining together of a hundred voices cheering creates a roar. Let’s join together and cheer on Rwandan entrepreneurs today! Team Kiva for the win!

Kiva Portfolio Manager Elizabeth Davidson contributed to this post.

About the author

Hope Kerpelman

Hope was born and raised in Baltimore and attended the University of Virginia as a politics major and a varsity student-athlete. After graduation, she moved to New York City to work for an environmental law firm on Fifth Avenue specializing in class action lawsuits. Hope recently relocated to the Bay Area, seeking work that was more in tune with her international aspirations and her strong desire to help tackle the global problem of poverty. She has long been interested in international development and micro-finance, inspired by her academic focus on foreign affairs in developing nations. Hope is thrilled to join such a passionate and driven organization as Kiva, and is excited to contribute to its mission as a whole.