There’s an article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about Andrew Rugasira, an African entrepreneur who has been successful in selling Ugandan coffee under the Good African brand to UK and US stores by advocating for trade, not aid. We visited the Rwanda Trading Center, a coffee export company in Rwanda, so this featured story was familiar and very relevant to my final blog post on sustainable social impact in East Africa.
I agree with Mr. Rugasira; revenue-generating enterprises are the engine for development in East Africa. Organizations need not be labeled “non-profit” or “social enterprise” to make a social impact in Africa. Good African and Rwanda Trading Center are improving the livelihood of coffee farmers in Uganda and Rwanda by offering higher prices and introducing simple technologies that increase the value of their crop.
I would argue that non-profits should also pursue revenue-generating activities to lessen their reliance on donor funds and increase the solvency of the organization. While in Rwanda, we met with scholarship recipients from Generation Rwanda, an organization that provides college scholarships and leadership education to orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. When I asked the two students seated at my table what was the most valuable aspect of their involvement with Generation Rwanda, apart from the scholarship funding, they mentioned the leadership trainings on topics ranging from stress management to interview preparation. I started to think, what if these trainings could be expanded and offered to other university students for a fee? More students would benefit from the leadership education and Generation Rwanda would gain another source of income. I’ve used Generation Rwanda as an example but I think non-profits more generally would be better able to drive lasting social impact if they secured sustained revenue streams.
Even though I’m now back in Boston, I look forward to continuing the discussions on social impact in East Africa and following new developments out of Kenya and Rwanda. Thank you to the study tour organizers, faculty and organizations visited for an incredible trip.