Rwandan Genocide Survivor Builds A Media Empire Empowering Youth
This article is one in an AFKInsider series that follows some of the young African leaders chosen to participate in U.S. President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The initiative is a U.S. effort to invest resources in the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs. Each year since 2014, 500 young Africans have been chosen to visit the U.S. and receive mentoring at top U.S. universities. Here’s the story of one of them.
Marcel Mutsindashyaka, 28, survived the devastating Rwandan genocide of 1994 and found a way to help others as an entrepreneur.
Mutsindashyaka is founder and CEO of Umuseke IT, a media and IT company in Rwanda.
Launched five years ago, Umuseke employs 25 people including IT professionals, reporters, editors, content managers, photographers, and camera specialists. The site is the second most popular news website in Rwanda with 85,000 visitors daily.
Mutsindashyaka’s target audience is youth, and one of his goals is giving youth a voice in post-genocide Rwanda.
Mutsindashyaka, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business information technology, was able to gain valuable business know-how through his 2014 participation in U.S. President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. He spent his time studying at Yale University. He talked to AFKInsider about the experience.
AFKInsider: Please explain what Umuseke does.
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: Umuseke is specialized in advertisement, sponsored articles, communication consultancy, website and mobile app development and graphic design. We have a dynamic and united team of journalists, website developers, mobile apps developers, graphic designers and sales and marketing. They work together to feed content to millions of readers that visit our website and monetize our audience and various IT services that we provide.
AFKInsider: How are you using your company to help youth?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: In Rwanda the youth represents 63 percent of the population. Umuseke … gives them a voice by covering artists that address their concerns and issues that are important to them. Many of our youth have been scarred by the genocide and we use our media outlet as a tool for peace building, healing wounds and empowering the community by talking about issues that the youth want to talk about. Additionally, our staff is made up of young people, so we give employment opportunities to young people.
AFKInsider: How did hear about YALI and why did you want to participate?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: I heard about YALI from a website that I don’t remember. I was expecting YALI to give me chance to meet other young Africans entrepreneurs and learn from them and do tours or study visits to American companies that do similar jobs.
AFKInsider: What did you get from the experience at Yale?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: My host university was Yale University in the business and entrepreneurship track program with 25 dynamic, accomplished leaders between the ages of 25 and 35. (They came from) Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Being at the Ivy League university with a dynamic team gave me a unique experience, exposure and opportunity to network, to be inspired and inspire other fellows.
The six weeks we spent at Yale emphasized experiential learning through networking with local and regional business leaders and innovators, service projects and community interaction. This program gave us hands-on skills and exceeded my expectations. We had a special and emotional session of one-one coaching in leadership, innovation management and social entrepreneurship.
As my career and passion is in media and IT, I got the chance to visit big companies similar to mine like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Arise TV, IBM, MIT, Harvard University, and so many more.
This program was not only about learning from the U.S. but mostly from other young leaders who are doing amazing things in their communities across Africa. From this I realized again that there is potential for the U.S. and Africa to collaborate for mutual benefit.
AFKInsider: Was what you learned transferable to the realities of running your business in your country?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: Yes, the skills I got from YALI was a lifetime experience and very transferable to daily life of my business. I discovered how other social entrepreneurs grow their initiative parallel with their personal goals and how to build. From YALI, I accelerated my social enterprise impact, empowered my team and opened my mind from local to global perspective.
AFKInsider: What there anything in particular that happened that was unique for you?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: YALI gave me credibility and introduced me to a bigger global network of professionals.
AFKInsider: Have you been able to use some of the skills you learned with YALI?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: Yes! I used what I learned from YALI to maximize my personal and professional growth, and most of all strategical planning of my business.
Personal growth: From YALI I learned personal branding and that in order to grow your initiative, an entrepreneur needs to empower himself. This why I went back to school. From YALI I got exposure as an entrepreneur which helped me to get a scholarship to do my master’s in the U.S.
Professional growth: I learned how to build a winning team. After YALI I went back home and revamped my staff, provide training and applied other the tips that I got from Yale School of Management. This change has impacted my brand equity.
AFKInsider: How and when did you start your company, Umuseke?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: I am survivor of the genocide of 1994 against Tutsis in Rwanda. Knowing that media was one of the key drivers of the genocide through young people I decided to use media not for revenge but for peace building, to restore unity using the same tools — engaging young people to rebuild and educate the community. I founded this initiative in January 2011.
AFKInsider: How did you fund the startup?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: I started Umuseke with nothing but skills. I used to be a freelancer web designer. The money that I made from this job helped to fund my startup. I also recognized valuable skills … and selfless contribution from my team made up of my peers — young Rwandans.
AFKInsider: Did you face any obstacles being a young entrepreneur?
Marcel Mutsindashyaka: Yes, of course. I had limited knowledge and I had not means to employ a skilled team. Access to finance was one of the pressing obstacles that I faced as a social entrepreneur.
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