By George Kalisa
Tycoon SINA Gérard and market leader in the Agri-business Sector has said the COVID-19 pandemic was a silver lining to farmers as it was time to review the ways they did business and reinvent new tactics to catch up with the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy and people’s livelihoods.
Rwanda’s imminent agriculturalist and exporter of foods and beverages says that Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard revamped online shopping as a response to the COVID-19 impact on traditional trade patterns particularly international trade.
“I couldn’t sit back in a comfort zone during the tough days when the COVID-19 pandemic was plaguing the country. The outbreak prompted the government to slap restrictions on travels including recurrent lockdowns and prohibitions on interprovincial travels and I had to think of new innovations of engaging my clients such as online shopping,” said SINA Gérard during a recent exclusive interview with The Light Magazine at the home of Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard, Nyirangama in Rulindo District.
He said that his agro-processing company capitalized on the period marked by low business to come up with new innovations that would allay a reverse of a progressive record the local Agri-business company boasts of in the fast growing sector.
SINA Gérard, the Founder and Managing Director of Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard is optimistic that online shopping is much safer, time-saving and effective in the prevention of the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic as esteemed clients.
“Our customers can now access online all our products and for detailed information they can contact the nearest branch Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard. Rwanda’s leading Agro-processing firm [Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard] has presence in nearly all provinces.
Today, all clients of Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard, can buy access a long its products and purchase them online.
The tycoon says that online shopping has gone a long way in helping Rwanda’s leading Agro-processing firm catch up with the economic challenges that COVID-19 set forth. Customers do shopping of Nyirangarama products from their homes and work places, an innovation that had eliminated movements to the shops, branches and Nyirangarama city which is home to Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard processing firm.
Sina Gérard extended his gratitude to the Rwandan government for putting in place safe health guidelines and regulations which Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard Entreprise continues to observe to the letter. Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MINAGRI) allowed employees in Agriculture to continue with work even during the pandemic.
The pandemic, Rwanda’s millionaire says, was unprecedented event that reminded farmers to embrace value chains in Agriculture. During the pandemic SINA says they managed to increase production of processed products from the crops Rwandans grow and milk from cows they keep into various products including cheese (Akamuri –salted butter), yoghurt, juices from pineapples, passion fruits and sugar cane, and biscuits from sweet potatoes (Akarabo).
The local entrepreneur produces a variety of soft drinks, foods and beverages which include Akandi natural mineral water [Rwanda’s leading pure water] Chili Oliva oils (Akabanga), AkanozO, AKA Mayonnaise, AKIWACU Strawberry Jam, ICYEZERE Natural Honey et cetera.
New Nyirangarama products hit market as response to COVID-19
As the new Coronavirus plagued the regional economy, including Rwanda, H.E President Paul Kagame was one of the first world leaders and the first in the region to call upon citizens to fight the pandemic by preventing further spread through frequent hand washing with soap and observing other best health practices like social distancing.
In this spirit, Entreprise Urwibutso/SINA Gérard responded to the call by starting to produce effective, high quality and affordable sanitizers dubbed AKINGENZI (Hand Sanitizer) and AKAMANZI (hand washing soap).
SINA Gérard adds the tough days were a blessing in disguise when players in the sector got ample time to review their marketing strategies and approaches alongside tailoring their products list to help them come up with products on high demand on both the local and foreign markets.
To catch up with the changing trade patterns and rising demand for COVID-19 paraphernalia like face masks and sanitizers that significantly helped in mitigating the spread of the pandemic.
SINA as an educationist and philanthropist
Sina is a man who does not easily give up especially in the face of a problem or challenge. He had to find a feasible solution before the problems related with the high rate of dropping out of school could lead to adverse economic effects on the processing plant and area at large. He, thus, founded the school to partly beat the social and economic vices that were linked to the lack of access to relevant education and to occupy the youths that had plenty time, which they would fill by stealing.
School enrolment has been on the upward trend since Collège Fondation SINA Gérard opened in the area. Today, at least 2,000 youths pursue their education at this school and hundreds of workers, 100 of them are teachers, mostly from the neighbourhoods do different jobs there.
All the 129 students who sat for Ordinary Level national examinations and 59 at Advanced Level in 2019 passed translating to 100 per cent at each education level. They had maintained excellent performance for more than five years in a row.
As of 2019, Collège Fondation SINA Gérard that started operations in 2003 boasted of a total of 2,092 students 1,294 of them are in the boarding section. It has all the education levels right from Nursery to Advanced Level with a highly facilitated Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) section.
The students get skills in Carpentry, Tailoring, Welding, Food processing, Agronomy [crop production], Veterinary Medicine [animal health] and Mechanics.
Sina Gérard contends that education devoid of Christian values is useless, stressing that he is investing in Religion to give students an opportunity to get holistic education that builds a complete person.
“Discipline, humility, reliability and trustworthiness are some of the values Christianity instills and reinforces. The new missionaries we have received today will help the students grow as God-fearing people with the desired values for them to get employment,” remarked Sina Gérard on February25, 2020 during a colourful ceremony when Kigali Archdiocese opened a new convent for the Missionaries of Sacred Heart (MSC).
SINA Gérard the Founder and Managing Director of Entreprise Urwibutso and Collège Fondation SINA GERARD says that he constructed CHAPELLE St. GERARD in a bid to offer Rwandan youth studying there a holistic education which builds a complete person.
Most people know SINA as an industrialist, investor and agriculturalist. But, a few people know that the businessman is a teetotaler, perfectionist and Philanthropist whose charity activities had by 2020 transformed livelihoods of thousands of vulnerable Rwandans, particularly in Rulindo District of the Northern Province where he hails from. Today, the area whose economy basically thrives on Agriculture, doubles as home to his Agro-processing plant and SINA GERARD Entreprise Urwibutso, anAgro-processing firm that dates back in 1987.
The beneficiaries of Sina’s charity programmes and acts of a humanitarian nature are mostly widows, single mothers, orphans and vulnerable people who were living in dilapidated and inhabitable houses and high risk shelters due to mainly grinding poverty, and perpetual involvement in traditional agriculture. Subsistence farming had limited them to hand-to-mouth incomes. Northern and Western Rwanda are highly prune to natural calamities typically landslides and floods for their terrain. Their children, also, lived with no tinge of hope of getting an education. In the past, many residents would lose their lives and properties including crops due to landslides and floods caused by heavy storms typical of this region. Food insecurity and acute malnutrition, family conflict had found refuge in nearly all the household in this area.
Today, thousands of parents live happily and their children attend school. Every year, Sina sponsors between 600-700 children from poor households. In addition to paying their school fees, they get all scholastic materials at his schools. Sina says letting social differences thrive in schools is one of the big causes of high school dropout rates in developing countries, and suggests that to effectively deal with this problem in Africa’s education sector, governments, parents, educationists and other stakeholders should focus more attention and direct more efforts and resources in implementing prevention policies and programmes. Programmes that can increase access to education, especially for children made vulnerable by Rwanda’s bad history, poverty and complexes based on gender.
The tycoon said doors are still open for the guests to Nyirangarama.
“We still need more visitors to see the breathtaking sceneries on the Mount Tare plus a variety of animals, and we thank whoever has spent time and money to visit the emerging tourism destination,” remarked SINA recently.
Formerly a famous stopover for travellers and tourists heading to the secondary cities of Rubavu and Musanze,Nyirangarama (the capital city of Rulindo District) has evolved into a lucrative tourist attraction. The Kigali-Musanze-Rubavu highway links Rwanda to Goma, a border city in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and beyond.
Nyirangarama started sprouting since millionaire Sina Gérard established tourist facilities in the area in 2003. The local folks and Rwandans in general largely attribute the socio-economic function of Nyirangarama Township to tycoon Sina Gérard whose SINA GERARD Urwibutso Entreprise is headquartered there.
Virtually, Rubavu and Musanze are the main tourist destinations for the East African nation with streams of visitors, including world celebrities who frequently visit the Virunga Volcanoes National Park to have a mesmerizing experience of more than half of the remaining Mountain gorillas in the world. This is no longer news to Rwandans and any visitors that have been to the country of a thousand hills and a thousand smiles.
Rwandans are the source of my motivation
Rwandan exporter of Akarusho wines and Akabanga (Chili oils) says that he takes prides in the customers of Nyirangarama products because they variously support his firm to grow to greater heights by choosing his products and attributes rising popularity of the products to their reliability and ready market. SINA pledges to continue going an extra mile in whatever they do to give value to the money of their clients and also meet their expectations in terms of quality and standards.
“Rwandans are a great source of my motivation – we make the wines and other products from the bananas, pineapples, sweet potatoes et cetera that they grow on Rwandan soils.