Rwanda's African Millionaire Sina Gérard

Sina Gérard of Urwibutso Enterprises is Rwanda’s leading entrepreneur. Self-made; he built himself up to be a successful business owner. Self-educated; he taught himself life’s lessons through personal experience. Self-confessed; he is proud to be a big dreamer and visionary.
Sina Gérard took his first steps as an entrepreneur by baking produce farmed with his parents’ bare hands. This small bakery established in 1983 was the first of many successful initiatives  started by Sina Gérard as a recipe for return. He expanded his portfolio by squeezing juice from the fruits of the very trees that he grew up surrounded  by.
His youthful enthusiasm later researched methods to preserve this juice. The puree process in turn led to the successful commercial production of banana wine and ultimately the popularity of these refreshments grew the chain of Sina Gérard’s retail outlets. Some of these shop fronts are visible on the Main Road linking the two busiest cities in Rwanda.

These cities enjoy the treats from Sina Gérard’s restaurants as well as the delicious consumables from his food and beverage factories. His factories’ large production volumes eventually required this entrepreneur to create a distribution centre in order to dispatch the supply required to quench the thirst for his products. Continued profitable turnover reinstated Sina Gérard in local soil where today he owns vast hectares of farmland and harvests his own raw ingredients. In addition he has uplifted the local farming industry by training rural farmers on international agricultural methods and standards.

Sina Gérard plans to further extend his successful empire into the export industry while continuing to give back to the local community as a private investor in education. He inaugurated the Sina Gérard School covering nursery, primary and secondary grades. Raised in the countryside with no formal study, Sina Gérard recognises academic and English language skills as assets and therefore facilitates the free schooling of all of his employees’ children at his institution.  Once the pupils graduate he would like to incorporate them into his Urwibutso work force.  He believes that education is as fundamental to the growth of his nation as it is to the prosperity of his national companies. Sina Gérard’s philosophy is that all entrepreneurs in Rwanda should contribute to the development of their country.

This is the story of a self-sufficient industry leader who took ownership of all the little opportunities that he encountered along the way and now owns large successful enterprises that are encountered by most Rwandan people on a daily basis. Sina Gérard is a thriving example of the prosperity that an entrepreneurial approach can attain.

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Nyirangarama, Rwanda (CNN) -- A maverick entrepreneur and self-made millionaire, Sina Gerard is probably Rwanda's most famous businessman.

Having established a business empire from the bottom up, he's now training local farmers to help make Rwanda an agricultural exporter.
"My aim is to make sure that the Rwandan people build themselves and get out of poverty," he says.
"My aim is to make sure Rwandan farmers, because they are rated at 90%, feel proud to be farmers. I'm sure I'll achieve it because so far I have achieved a lot."
There's no disputing Gerard's achievements. Twenty-five years ago he had just one employee, who helped him sell the bread he baked at his parents' farm. Now, Gerard says he employs hundreds of workers and buys produce from thousands of farmers.
Although he started out selling his food from a roadside stall, he was soon known not for his snacks, but what he put on them -- his famous "Akabanga" chili sauce.
He now produces his chili sauce in industrial quantities. Akabanga is so strong that workers making it are required to wear a face mask. It has become popular in Rwanda and is shipped across the world for customers wanting the ultimate spicy kick.
I look for that very poor person and help him or her -- not necessarily financially, but train them and give them more knowledge.
--Sina Gerard, entrepreneur
Gerard, the former baker, now has his fingers in many pies, running a bewildering variety of ventures.
His factories make fruit drinks and banana wine from locally grown produce, and he sells them directly from his own 24-hour roadside shops.
He is now focusing on driving agricultural change. Always the innovator, he has begun producing strawberries rather than staple foods and growing fruits new to Rwanda, such as grapes for wine production, and apples.
Keen to stimulate the local agricultural economy, Gerard gives farmers free seeds, fertilizer and training and buys their crops when they are ready for harvest.
"That's me -- that's how I am," he says. "I love people, and for me to have financial security it's because I live well with all my neighbors here."
"I look for that very poor person and help him or her -- and not necessarily financially, but train them and give them more knowledge," he adds.
He still lives in the same town he was born in because he wants to help people with similar skills and aspirations to his own.
The town did not have a school until Gerard built one. He hopes some of the school's graduates will join him in his work and become successful business people themselves.
But, though he is always a visionary, some of Gerard's methods are more unconventional than others.
He has been experimenting with playing music to his pigs and claims he has seen an improvement in productivity. He has even set up a control group, which is not played music, to prove his pig-nurturing theory.
"What I have realized is that pigs need music," he says. "With my projects of pigs they need music. They eat well, they don't waste what they eat, they deliver well. They even mate well."
But what drives Gerard to keep trying out new ideas and keep expanding into so many different businesses?
"Who else can do it?" he says. "Since I'm here, and I'm able to do it, I just chose to do it all."

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