Planting Seeds of an Ecosystem in Burundi

October 12, 2020
"Businesses develop countries. They unlock talents and skills, creating jobs and wealth. A vibrant small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector can initiate the lasting transformation that our society needs, allowing us to overcome the battle against poverty.”
Jean de Dieu Bizimana

Life in Burundi

Burundians are resilient people. But life in this small, East African country isn’t easy.  Most of the population survives on subsidence farms. Almost two-thirds live below the poverty line. Jobs are scarce, and the unemployment rate for youth is 65%. Decades of political and social unrest have created instability and stunted economic growth.

Local Leaders Bring Sinapis to Burundi

Amidst these challenges, a core group of leaders in Burundi has been praying for an alternative way to help the poor and share the love of Christ. For years microfinance institutions have provided small loans across the country, but little has been done to support entrepreneurs seeking to scale larger profitable businesses. This gap led Jean de Dieu Bizimana and a team of leaders to visit Nairobi to evaluate Sinapis’ programs and assess the potential for partnership in Burundi. His conclusion? “Burundi needs this.” After completing translation and contextualization of the material, he and his team launched the 9-week Aspire program in August in Bujumbura.  Eight Burundian entrepreneurs enrolled in this first class - five with existing businesses and three at the idea stage. The course is discussion-based and hyper-practical. Entrepreneurs test, refine, and grow their business ideas. The impact was immediate. Years of conflict have conditioned Burundians to guard their ideas. Yet as the weeks passed, the group learned to trust one another. The emphasis on talking with customers connected concepts to practice. And the Kingdom business content helped entrepreneurs see their work as a calling to the marketplace. One leader shared, “Sinapis’ program equips Burundian businessmen and women to discover their God given talent and skills. We are now in a better position to promote ethical business and make Christ-followers in the marketplace.”

Seeds of an Ecosystem

Our namesake, sinapis, is the Latin word for mustard seed. In Matthew 13, Jesus shares,

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

At Sinapis, we typically relate this parable to the potential individual entrepreneurs have to grow their businesses. The vivid picture of birds making nests in the branches highlights the impact that profitable faith-driven businesses have on employees, their dependents, and the community. But in Burundi, our partners are planting seeds not just in individual businesses but for a first of its kind faith-driven entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country. They want to see this movement build the economy, create dignified jobs to the poor, and offer resources to support the local church. They aim to solve the tough challenges of the country from the inside-out. It thrills us to serve them in such an important effort.

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