Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA is the CEO and founder of Rise for Africa, a non-governmental organization created in Norway in 2018. This organization has been transforming lives through their mentorship programs. Young people are getting trained, coached, and motivated to plan well their future. About 500 Burundian young people have benefited from the program while more than 30 have set up their own startups already.
Akeza.net: Tell us about yourself…
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: My name is Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA. I am Burundian. I was born and grew up in Jabe, Bujumbura-Burundi. I did my Basic studies in Burundi. I did Communication at Lake Tanganyika University and have been a journalist for three years at Rema FM Radio before traveling to Norway.
At first, I went to Norway not to study but for a project of twinning Butaganzwa commune (Kayanza province) of Burundi and Håa commune in Stavanger-Norway. The project was initiated by the CPHA Association (Christian Youth For Humanitarian Action) with the objective of strengthening relations between Burundi and Norway. At the time, I was part of the CPHA and was appointed to represent them as a consultant.
After a few years in Norway, I decided to continue my studies in Business Administration with a specialization in International Business at the Norwegian Business School in Oslo.
I later continued with some training programs where I had the chance to align with my passion of personal empowerment and then I was inspired to create my own company in Norway which allowed me to start providing Business consultation as a strategist.
Akeza.net: What’s the idea behind Rise for Africa ?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: Rise for Africa is an NGO that provides mentorship programs. I came up with the idea of Rise for Africa myself but then I pitched it to some friends whom I knew always supported me and had the same ambition like me to change lives in Africa. Some are Africans, others are Norwegians.
As I travelled a lot, I had this discommoding idea of starting to identify some of the problems that we might have in our country that are always holding us back from living a full and happy life, and prevent from developing ourselves as we should. I came to the realization that it’s not that we are financially poor in Africa or let’s say in Burundi as we think or we used to be told, but we are victims of a Poverty mentality.
I mean that the poor mindset of our people has always been a hindrance for our development especially in the case where we always have in mind that someone else has to do something for us in order to develop ourselves.
We have never been taught to be creative, self-reliance and self-sufficient.
I decided I should do something for my country and give my little contribution. I love Burundi so much, sometimes I myself cannot explain it.
Akeza.net: So, what did you do?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA:I needed more skills, so I joined a volunteering program at a Startup incubator for two years where I developed the skills of how startups are made, how business ideas are created and developed regardless of the challenges, based on testimonies.
I learned that it’s not money that comes first when we have an idea. I said Yes, “that is what I needed”
The idea got settled into my mind that I have to do something for my Africa, for my Burundi. I knew I can’t get enough money to share that can bring satisfaction to everyone, in fact it is not even the better solution because they say that whenever you give money to someone which is not going to be invested you are teaching that person to spend not to invest and that person will develop the skills of spending and depending on others.
For me the solution was to create the Rise for Africa organization where we can train our people to change the way they think.
I was happy that my friends embraced my idea and we had it registered as soon as we discussed about it.
We even decided that after being established in Burundi which was my first priority, we will expand the program to other African Countries such as in Tanzania and Botswana, as some of the board members are from Africa, GHATI MWITA is from Tanzania and Patience Goitseone Tshotlego is from Botswana.
That’s how Rise for Africa started.
We started working as an NGO in Norway in 2018 and in Burundi we were officially registered in 2019.
Akeza.net: How does Rise for Africa operate?
Marie-Chantal NZEYIMANA: We provide FREE mentorship programs to our young people. Through the program, we mentor, we train and we coach them in personal development and in change of mentality.
We normally organize conferences and workshops where we invite them and provide them with basic knowledge.
Akeza.net: What is exactly the content of the program in short?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: The program covers lessons that improve awareness and identify, develop talents and potential. It also enhances the quality of life and contributes to the realization of dreams and aspirations.
Akeza.net: Who are the beneficiaries of your programs?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: We train youth and women. We have some projects coming, for women (especially the vulnerable women) and single ladies. Sometimes they think they are victims of life. We are trying to establish a special program to bring hope to their lives.
Akeza.net: How does one become a member of Rise for Africa?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: Everyone who participates in our program can become a member if interested. It’s up to the person to decide to become a member of Rise for Africa and benefit from our next programs.
Those interested by our program can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (Rise for Africa). We mostly post our daily quotes and workshops information.
Akeza.net: What are your achievements so far?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: Within a year, we have more than 30 young people with their own projects running. Some are already registered and some are still experimenting. In 2 years, we expect to have at least more 300 young people having their own companies.
Akeza.net: How does the humanitarian activity held in Rubirizi connect to your programs?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: We are involved in the education sector and it is okay for our organization to intervene where there is a need. We support anything that can impact positively our country.
More than 800 kids from 5 different schools benefited from 4800 copy-books we donated in Rubirizi. They are the future. They need to be educated and to feel loved so that they can grow with a positive mindset. The donation was a way to motivate them to continue with their classes. They had been identified a month after the school year started, with no school materials.
Akeza.net: What kind of advice would you give to the young people and the Diaspora?
Marie Chantal NZEYIMANA: There is a Burundian proverb that says “Uwutazi iyo aja ntazimira”, meaning that “the person who doesn’t’ know his direction will never get lost, anyway he doesn’t know where he is heading to, meaning anyplace can be his final decision.
But this is not the life we should be living in as young Africans, we should have higher ambitions and visions, we should cultivate a culture of aiming and dreaming big.
We have to see our future serves different persons than our present.
So, if you really want to meet your goals, you have to become a different person.
Always remember this, success comes down to how you imagine your future. To ensure you are always moving forward, ask yourself this question: who do I want to be? And where do I want to go?
For Diaspora members, all I can say is « let’s build our country together and make it a better home for our families and compatriots. Our Home is in Burundi, no matter how many years we can live abroad they will still ask us where we come from and where is our home. Everyone’s contribution is needed ».
Interview by Melchisédeck BOSHIRWA