The unique collaboration between the two Universities was launched last July to boost social entrepreneurship in Rwanda. This ground breaking partnership enables student from both universities to develop a range of social enterprise projects that seek to transform Rwandan society.
This visit was part of a transformative nine-month programme collaborating with students from the University of Rwanda via inter-university teams to generate ideas for social enterprise projects in Rwanda which may be considered for further development and funding. The students joined colleagues for a nine-day social enterprise and cultural retreat to learn about Rwandan economy and society, be inspired by Rwandan social entrepreneurs and further design, develop and refine their projects, receiving feedback on how to take their projects forward to the next stage.
The programme , funded by the Quintin Hogg Trust foundation with the additional support of two leading Rwandan investment banks - BRD and BDF, offered students the opportunity to develop essential employability skills including cross-cultural communication, project management, business strategy and management. The visit to Rwanda took them to cultural sites such as Lake Kivu, Kigali Genocide Memorial, where they laid a wreath on behalf of the University to commemorate the Tutsi Genocide of 1994, and the state-of-the-art Gahanga International Cricket Stadium.
The visit also included seminars and networking events for students led by Westminster faculty to learn how to communicate and how to make an impact while showcasing their ideas. It culminated with students delivering five minute pitch presentations to a senior panel of judges including the Chief Executive of the Development Bank of Rwanda, the Chief Executive of Rwanda Cricket Association, Director of Internationalisation of Westminster Business School and the Dean of University of Rwanda Business School.
Among the selected Westminster students, five represented the University of Westminster’ Smoke Radio and TV team who produced a documentary about the visit.
A few days prior to the visit, Westminster students also had the opportunity to meet former BBC Newsnight Producer, David Belton, who covered the 1994 Rwandan Genocide while working as a reporter for the BBC. During the event, David Belton shared his thoughts and experiences, which led him to write and produce the film ‘Shooting Dogs’, with students.
Westminster students met BBC Newsnight Producer David Belton prior to their trip to Rwanda
The programme received outstanding positive feedback from students from both universities, who described the trip as an ‘incredible’, ‘unforgettable’, ‘exciting’ and ‘eye-opening’ experience.
One Architecture student from the University of Westminster said: “I just wanted to say thank you to the people from Rwanda and people from Westminster for this wonderful experience, being part of a social enterprise and having the opportunity to visit Rwanda. This welcoming country taught me a lot of things that I would never imagine. At the same time, it empowered my inner self in so many different ways that are difficult to describe, and I can’t wait to see what is coming next. Unity, team work, genuine hearts are the main aspects of this project and we could feel it in the air. I know that this will move little pieces in this world. I can only express the marks this experience has left on me, but I can imagine what it has left in people’s hearts during this adventure.”
A student from the University of Rwanda also shared his experience, saying: “This whole week that we spent with Westminster students and staff was one I will never forget. We learnt how to make social enterprises that will change thousands of people’s lives, but we also learnt how to live in a society, particularly through a mutual understanding. I would like to thank Darrell Kofkin and all the Westminster staff for all the amazing work they did. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity.”
The programme has generated huge media interest in local and national media and received great media coverage from Rwandan outlets and national broadcast TV channels including RTV, Hope Magazine, Rwanda News Agency, Taarifa, Igihe, highlighting the importance of this collaborative programme in transforming the Rwandan society and forging future Rwandan entrepreneurs.
Talking about the programme, Darrell Kofkin, Project Director of the Social Entrepreneurship Rwanda programme and also Course Leader for Undergraduate Marketing Programmes at Westminster Business School , said: “My vision for this programme was that students from diverse backgrounds and circumstances would come together to make lasting impact, transforming not only their lives but also the lives of many in Rwanda. Rwanda is an incredible country that has transformed itself remarkably from the dark days of 1994. The programme represented an amazing opportunity for our students to engage with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, to engage with and exchange ideas and knowledge with their Rwandan peers and to develop projects which will have real and sustainable impact on Rwandan society. This is just the beginning and there is much work ahead of the students over the next month as they further refine their plans before final submission at the end of June, and as we put in place the resources to make this a sustainable programme for many years to come.”