Posted May 9, 2008

International business student helps coffee growers re-grow Rwanda's economy

Bachelor of business administration: international business and finance

When a country is ripped apart by war, it can become a prime target for economic wolves in sheep’s clothing who come offering growth and rebuilding, too often at the cost of squandering the nation’s resources.
Hubert Ruzibiza
Photo by Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University
Hubert Rutage Ruzibiza, a senior in international business and finance, who comes from Rwanda, is trying to pitch opportunities to coffee shop owners to buy fair-trade Rwandan coffee beans.

But Hubert Rutage Ruzibiza knows there are better alternatives for his home of Rwanda, and it all starts with the country’s exquisite coffee beans.

Ruzibiza, a senior in international business and finance, has been campaigning to grow Rwanda’s economy through private agribusinesses in coffee and tea. In February, he organized the Post-Conflict Africa Open for Responsible Business symposium, which gathered government agencies such as the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. participated to discuss socially responsible investing in war-torn African countries.

And Ruzibiza is always trying to pitch opportunities to coffee shop owners to buy fair-trade Rwandan coffee beans.


“We don’t want any investor to go there and exploit the resources, we want to give it back to the community,” Ruzibiza said. “That can improve the income of the farmers and rebuild the country.”

Although he was born in Burundi (his parents moved there to flee the impending genocide in Rwanda), Ruzibiza’s family is from Rwanda and he maintains connections with relatives and friends there. His trips back have allowed him to see firsthand the effects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which government-supported Hutu groups killed 800,000 Tutsis in 100 days.

Rural areas were hit especially hard, Ruzibiza said. Without the economic benefits of urbanization, their ability to rebuild is almost solely based on agriculture.

As a business major, Ruzibiza is inclined to look to the private sector rather than the government for solutions. “The government of Rwanda is acutely aware that achieving the objectives of its Vision 2020 requires a substantial contribution by foreign investors, who need to be welcomed and assisted on the ground,” said Ruzibiza, referring to the country’s massive revitalization project.

Luckily, Rwandan farmers have the benefit of being able to grow some of the best coffee in the world. Ruzibiza has traveled back to Rwanda to help Thousand Hills Traders, a Rwandan coffee farm, with their business. While in the United States, he visits roasters in the Philadelphia region to convince them to buy Thousand Hills coffees.

After graduation, Ruzibiza plans to gain experience in economic development to prepare him in the job of assisting Rwandan reconstruction full-time.

“As long as I can help Rwanda, I’m happy,” he said “If there’s profit in it, then I’m happy, too.”

—Written by Andrew Thompson

For the Fox School of Business