Can Rwandan Boutique Bakery Become Starbucks of Africa?

Can Rwandan Boutique Bakery Become Starbucks of Africa?

When Jean-Philippe Kayobotsi left a lucrative job to open a bakery and coffee shop in Kigali, his friends thought he was crazy, CNN.com reports.

An advocate for private sector development, the Rwandan-Belgian law school graduate, 38, had worked with politicians and corporate executives at Deloitte, African Development Bank and as an adviser to the president of Rwanda.

Then his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in.

In May, inspired by international chains such as Starbucks, Le Pain Quotidien
and Paul, Kayobotsi decided to go it alone in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital — a city of about a million residents. He opened Brioche, an upscale bakery and coffee shop and named it after his favorite bread.

Brioche has 12 employees but more hires are expected. They sell chocolate
mousse and croissants, tuna sandwiches, cakes made with locally grown strawberries and
mangoes, different types of bread, pasta, a variety of coffees and juices.

“We have about 20,000 items that are being sold each month — and it is increasing,”
Kayobotsi said. “This is the first of many boutiques we want to spread across Rwanda, the region, and Africa. We want to be the Starbucks of Africa.”

Rwanda is one of the easiest places in the world to do business, Kayobotsi told CNN. Legal and administrative reforms have made business creation in Rwanda fast and affordable. Rwanda ranked No. 9 out of 189 economies in the world on a World Bank index that measures the ease of starting a business.

“You can actually create a company in the morning and receive your incorporation certificate in the afternoon of the same day,” Kayobotsi told CNN.

Kayobotsi said he wanted to start a “boutique” bakery in Rwanda that would work in any country in the world. He combined what he recognized as a gap in the market with his favorite kind of bread, and now he sells brioche with sugar, chocolate, raisins or just plain.

“I decided to walk the talk instead of preaching for private sector development,” he told CNN. “I looked for an opportunity that both made business sense and would excite me.”

Landlocked Rwanda — population 11-million-plus — has made remarkable economic gains since genocide claimed 800,000 lives in 1994. Its poverty rate has decreased from 78 percent in 1995 to less than 50 percent in 2012, World Bank reports. In 2012, its economy grew by 8 percent.

But Kayobotsi warns there are still challenges for entrepreneurs in Rwanda: because it is a landlocked country, transportation costs are high and electricity is expensive.

Brioche buys some flour locally but most of it comes from France and Belgium. The company has yet to make a profit, but Kayobotsi has already bought two more locations in Kigali and plans to build a large central kitchen so he can supply all his planned bakeries in the city.

“I am a firm believer that Africa — and Rwanda — is in no need of aid or government
programs but of private sector investments,” he told CNN. “Only private sector investments, in my view, can have the magnitude in terms of scale and creativity that is required to create the millions of jobs that Africa needs for its young generation.”