News of plans to set up of a craft brewery being in advanced stages has recently swept through Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. As the name suggests, the planned brewery will be small and independently-owned by a renowned name in Kigali’s entrepreneurial and restaurant-owners community, Josephine `Fina’ Uwineza.
Uwineza is the owner of Flamingo Restaurant, which was the first Chinese restaurant in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali and Fina’s Freshings, an agribusiness company.
Recent reports indicate that Uwineza has been undergoing training in beer-brewing and craft brewery management at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada.
Uwineza was put in touch with Beau’s CEO Steve Beauchesne through Nancy Coldham, a mentor with the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women non-profit that offers support to women entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Afghanistan. Wanting what he calls a “legacy project” to mark the brewery’s 10th anniversary, Beauchesne took it on.
“I fell in love with the idea because it helps the global community and it speaks to us,” says Beauchesne, who sold ownership of his family brewery to the company’s 150 employees this past spring. “We’re brewers. It’s one thing to dig wells and build houses but we don’t know how to do those things nearly as well as making beer.”
According to one report, the Project is still in the early stages, and has neither name nor premises yet. Uwineza also needs to raise $95,000 to buy a bottling line.
A Canadian brewing manufacturer, Newlands Systems Inc., is donating a brew house and will help with recipe development.
The small brewer is not likely to cause any business dents on the operations of the big international brewers already in Rwanda; Skol International and Heineken – owners of Bralirwa which produces the popular Primus brand. It will also be targeting only the Kigali city market.
In fact, Uwineza said in an interview with Ottaw’a CBC radio that the breweries main focus will be to create jobs for women in the countryside and raise their incomes.
She said the small plant will employ about five to 15 people but, because it is planned to use only locally grown products in its brewing, it is hoped that it will employ a lot more people, especially women, as suppliers.
“That’s the main idea so that we can help the women in the village, the women who are less fortunate,” she said, “If we can grow all the raw materials in Rwanda, that means I can go to the village and the women will be growing the ingredients, and from there we can really see the impact.”
Ingredients being looked into include millet, sorghum, cassava and bananas.
According to newspaper reports, Beauchesne, who is a co-founder and CEO of Beau’s, became involved after the Ontario Craft Brewers organisation — of which he is a member — heard a pitch for help. He said his company does not have a financial or ownership stake in the project.
“This is going to be Fina’s brewery. We’re helping her get the project off the ground,” Beauchesne said.
He told journalists in Canada that his brewing team is really excited by the opportunity the project offers them to rediscover and revive old brewing traditions.
“A lot of what has been cool in craft (brewing) has been rediscovering these kinds of lost traditions and reviving them,” he said.
He added that he became more interested after learning about growing co-ops in Rwanda, where health and education are provided for.
“It really becomes a sort of family support system, and it’s helping rural families. The brewery itself will probably have, I’m guessing five to 15 people employed, which is great, but the real impact here is going to be the dozens, if not hundreds of women and families that will be benefiting because of the agricultural side of this,” he said.
Beauchesne says he has visited Kigali to do a feasibility assessment to determine if there’s enough water, power and government support to open a brewery. So far, everything looks OK, he said.