Kate Spade & Company Launches New Trade-Based Initiative in Rwanda

For the last 12 months, Karisimbi Buiness Partners has been working with Kate Spade & Company, the renowned fashion brand whose popularity has exploded over the last few years. Known for their high quality handbags, Kate Spade & Company has expanded to bring a range of apparel, fashion accessories and home products to their offering.

As a company committed to expanding their corporate social responsibility impact, Kate Spade & Co identified Rwanda as the springboard for the on purpose initiative. Through this for-profit initiative, Kate Spade & Company worked with Karisimbi Business Partners to employ over 120 local artisans in Masoro, Rwanda to help establish a new business as a profitable supplier to kate spade new york, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade.

Unlike traditional non-profit organizations or donation-based programs, KBP assisted Kate Spade & Company to create on purpose with the goal of helping empower the village of Masoro to become more economically stable. A team of Karisimbi staff dedicated 100% to the project worked closely with these artisans to provide technical skills and training in financial literacy to help them evolve their existing association into a licensed business entity. The company offers its employees a fair salary, benefits including vacation time and maternity leave, health care and national social security benefits. Karisimbi also ensured that Kate Spade & Company’s compliance and labor standards were me to ensure compliance with global standards for working conditions.

This CSR project stands out as the products produced in Rwanda for the limited-edition on purpose collection are designed to fit seamlessly into Kate Spade & Company’s existing collections and the artisans adhere to the same design and manufacturing guidelines the Company applies to all of its products. on purpose items include kate spade new york handbags, scarves and jewelry, Kate Spade Saturday jewelry and home items and Jack Spade totes, bracelets and pocket squares.

You can see the results for yourself: The limited-edition items will be available in select kate spade new york, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade stores and on each brand’s website beginning May 5, 2014.

Meanwhile, the Karisimbi Team will remain on the ground to support the growth and development of this exciting initiative.

In a rush to develop, Rwanda can’t forget the other 80%

The Rwandan Government believes that the service sector will define the country’s future development. Still, agriculture remains the backbone of the economy. According to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), it accounts for about a third of Rwanda’s GDP and generates approximately 70% of the country’s export revenue. A little less than 80% of the population is employed in agriculture, constituting the main source of income for rural households, especially for women.

Accepting this reality is crucial, and any plan for future development must fully consider the 80%. Both the public sector and private sector must take steps to transform agriculture and ensure that Rwanda’s rural population reaps the many benefits of modernization. With this in mind, Karisimbi Business Partners is currently engaged in the early stages of a 5 year 8 million EUR public-private-partnership (PPP), entitled “Sugar: Make it Work.” The project brings needed investment to the sugar cane sector with financing from the Dutch Government and Rwanda’s sole sugar processor, Kabuye Sugar Works (KSW), with additional participation from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

Currently, sugar cane farmers, as well as KSW, face a multitude of challenges. A shortage of suitable land available for sugarcane agriculture restricts production. Severe flooding and deficient water drainage/irrigation constrains optimal yields on existing land, forcing Rwanda to import much of its sugar and leaving consumers highly dependent on volatile prices. With a growing population and increasing consumer expenditure, both domestically and regionally, Rwanda risks missing a crucial opportunity to grow a local industry with great potential.

The “Sugar: Make it Work” PPP is making critical investments in water management infrastructure in order to reduce flooding so that KSW and outgrower farmers can make the most of available marshland. Within the next decade, through improved water management and the introduction of remote sensing technology, local production of sugar should nearly double. This could lead to an increase in outgrower and KSW estate employment by approximately 41%, as well as add new highly skilled agro-IT service jobs in the sugar cane sector. With improved capacity to track and monitor crops, KSW and outgrower farmers will be in a better position to predict sugar cane yields, respond to disease outbreaks and optimize the harvesting and transport of crops. Additionally, the project will increase technical and business training for outgrower farmers, improving their participation in the value chain.
Without doubt, the development of Rwanda’s service sector will define its path towards greater economic, social and political development.

Diversification towards a knowledge-based economy would set Rwanda apart from other countries in the region and the African continent as a whole. The development of a service-based economy can create new jobs, boost labor productivity and allow the country to transcend its limitations, such as a lack of mineral resources, small population and landlocked geography.

We recognize this great potential, but the agricultural sector cannot be ignored. Opportunities abound to increase production, generate greater employment, introduce new technologies and improve rural livelihoods in general. We’re excited by projects like Sugar: Make it Work because it brings together public and private sector actors to tackle some of the most pressing problems faced by farmers in Rwanda. Taking large steps to transform a country like Rwanda is admirable and even offers hope to other countries on the continent. Indeed, Rwanda should be ambitious and chart its own path towards development. But it should do so keeping that 80% in mind.

Karisimbi Partners speaks at Cracking the Nut Africa

Cracking the Nut Africa was held this past week at the Serena Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. The conference brought together Africa-focused investors, entrepreneurs, development workers and government officials to explore innovative approaches to improving rural livelihoods and food security by partnering with the private sector.

Hunter Thompson, Director of Karisimbi Business Partners, and Jon Porter, Lead Investment Manager of Karisimbi Capital Partners led attendees through a presentation entitled “Profiling Investors for East African Investment Opportunities” during one of the conferences breakout sessions. The presentation focused on identifying which characteristics were typical of investors who were more likely to move forward with an actual investment in a target geography. If investment attractors were able to identify these characteristics early on – Karisimbi Partners asserted – then it could be determined relatively quickly which investors to deploy scare resource toward.

Using Rwanda as an example and drawing from five years of experience working with investors, the pair highlighted the following as being characteristics of investors who are more likely to consummate deals in Rwanda.

  • Investing with “eyes wide open” – not uninformed of the specific challenges faced in Rwanda
  • Comfortable with incomplete information – able to move forward despite potential lack of good data
  • Actively looking for deals – not waiting for deals to be brought to them
  • Able to operate with limited practical government or donor support – happy to have it, but not an essential part of the business model
  • Country specific commitment and/or social motivation – essential in light of the many significant country-specific challenges
  • Commitment to local presence and/or active involvement – not a passive investor or limited partner
  • Undefined exit strategy / extended time horizon – willing to be involved 5-10 years and beyond
  • Flexible and appropriate investment criteria – ticket size and other criteria that are well-suited to many potential deals in the target geography

The presentation was followed by a panel comprised of top managers from several of the largest agribusiness investments in Rwanda in the past five years who discussed which characteristics highlighted in the presentation described their own investors and why they were important.

Karisimbi Partners wants to extend a special thanks to the panelists who added a level of depth and real-world examples to the presentation – Gilbert Gatali of KZ Noir, Matt Smith of Rwanda Trading Company, Claude Mansell of MINIMEX Group and Nathan van Dusen of Carana Corporation.

Asili Natural Oils launches Green Coffee Oil product for cosmetics

Asili Natural Oils, a portfolio company of Karisimbi Capital Partners, recently launched a new cosmetic ingredient product for personal care formulators – Green Coffee Oil.

The oil is cold-pressed from fresh green coffee beans (coffea arabica) sourced from small-scale Rwandan coffee farmers. Rwanda – known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills” – boasts the ideal soil, elevation and climate for growing some of the world’s finest coffee, translating into a high quality oil with excellent emollient properties in cosmetic applications.

Green Coffee Oil is rich in phytosterols that promote excellent moisture retention, quick penetration and good adherence within cosmetic applications. It is also exceptionally high in its composition of essential fatty acids.

Email sales@asilioils.com for more product information and to request a quotation. Visit www.asilioils.com to learn more about Asili Natural Oils and the company’s other products including its flagship Cold-Pressed Moringa Oil.

Karisimbi Partners launches Karisimbi Fellows Program for recent graduates

Rwandan-based consulting and investment firm Karisimbi Partners is proud to announce the creation of the Karisimbi Fellows program. The Fellows program is intended to provide opportunities for professionals who have recently completed an undergraduate or graduate degree in business administration or a related field to get hands on experience partnering with businesses in the developing world. Karisimbi Fellows will have the unique opportunity to work directly with management teams and other stakeholders in Rwanda and the East African region to increase capacity and effectiveness and in so doing to assist in the long term development of the communities in which those businesses operate. The Karisimbi Fellow is provided a unique platform to assist in developing the private sector through the strong reputation and partnerships built by Karisimbi Partners over years of operating in East Africa.

Rolling start dates for selected candidates begin Fall 2013. Housing and business-related expenses will be covered by Karisimbi Partners and a stipend will also be provided to the Fellow to offset some costs of living.

Click here to download the Program Description for more detail and instructions in submitting an application for consideration.

Karisimbi Partners launches Asili Natural Oils and moringa oil cosmetic product

In 2012 Karisimbi Business Partners, in a joint venture with international investors, undertook the establishment of Rwanda’s first oilseed processing company. The company, Asili Natural Oils, is a social impact company focused on the production of specialty oils for use in personal care and food applications. Its first product, Cold-Pressed Moringa Oil, represents an African product with incredible potential in cosmetics. Read the below Company Profile for Asili Natural Oils, and visit the website by clicking HERE.

Asili Natural Oils is a supplier of natural ingredients to customers in the personal care and specialty oil industries around the world. Asili, a Swahili word meaning “from the source”, conveys our commitment to quality natural products from the ground up. Located in the country of Rwanda, Asili Natural Oils is a social-impact business occupying a critical link in the supply chain – connecting hundreds of small-holder farmers to high value international markets. We are committed to serving our customers with professionalism and integrity, thereby ensuring benefit for farmer and customer.

Asili Natural Oils was launched in 2012 by socially-motivated investors in order to bring a business solution to address the debilitating effects of development-sector programs that encouraged Moringa Oleifera cultivation by smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Nearly ten years after thousands of poor farming families were promised large increases in incomes from planting moringa and selling its production, Asili Natural Oils made the first private sector purchase of Moringa Oleifera seed – and the poor communities in Rwanda’s Eastern Province celebrated. Said one moringa farmer, “As long as Asili continues keeping its promises, moringa is going to change our lives.”

Asili Natural Oils processes the Moringa Oleifera seed directly in its own processing facility by mechanically cold-pressing the kernel to extract the natural oil. Care is taken to ensure all processing methods maintain the oil’s natural characteristics, which are uniquely suited for personal care formulations.

Due to its incredible oxidative stability, moringa oil enables personal care formulations to avoid rancidity for a long period of time. The rich emolliency created by the behenic acid provides a distinctive, nongreasy after-feel. Noticeable qualities of the oil in personal care applications include its silky texture, long-lasting moisturizing effect and ability to soften and soothe skin. Proven applications include bath & massage oils, creams & lotions, hair preparations, liquid makeup, lipstick and suntan lotions.

The personal care industry has taken notice of moringa, but the potential for this oil in cosmetic applications has only been scratched: its physical properties, the beauty of the tree’s flowers – even the name, “moringa” – combine to ensure that moringa oil will flourish as a cosmetic ingredient.

We believe that developing strong relationships with a short-list of ingredient suppliers is a key “ingredient” in our success and the success of the farming families we support. We seek not only to sell a quality product, but to share a powerful story of impact being made in another part of the world and have that story shared all the way up the value chain and to the end consumer. And we endeavor that all of our relationships – with buyers, suppliers and our employees – be defined by professionalism, integrity and genuine care.

KBP contributes to “Unlocking Rwanda’s Employment Puzzle”

Karisimbi Business Partners created the 2013 Employment & Compensation review for Rwanda, which highlighted trends and insights into relevant issues impacting the local business environment. The New Times recently published an article examining the challenges and opportunities facing business owners, hiring managers and prospective employees, highlighting the KBP report. The article can be reviewed HERE.


Karisimbi Partners’ New Director: Hunter Thompson

Hunter Thompson is the newest Karisimbi Partners’ employee, filling the position of Director of Consulting. After actively recruiting for this position for more than a year, Hunter’s appointment feels like one of the greatest accomplishments of 2013. Hunter joins the leadership of Karisimbi Partners at a critical time in the growth of the company, and he contributes essential expertise from the fields of consulting and banking that have already begun to offer great value to every business process and client challenge in which we engage.

Hunter brings 10 years of business management experience to Karisimbi Partners, experience that has centered on developing and delivering strategic plans and driving operational efficiencies. Hunter began in this new role March, 2013, leaving Capital One Bank (the 6th largest American banking institution) after more than three years of service. While at Capital One, Hunter led a team charged with improving the customer service experience, and he also served on the Operations Strategy Team, conducting due diligence for possible acquisition targets and supporting strategic transformation of Capital One post company acquisition(s). As Lead of the Bank Portfolio Office Process team, Hunter defined process requirements, guided change initiatives, prioritized technology and other investments, and managed the process and impact associated with implementation schedules. Previously, Hunter worked as a Senior Consultant for Dominion Digital, a boutique management consulting firm working with clients in the Banking, Insurance, Credit Card, Pharmaceutical and Non-Profit sectors. In this capacity, he managed teams, mitigated risks and led process improvement initiatives related to over 60 business functions for multiple clients. Prior to this, Hunter has also worked to maintain accurate monitoring, reporting and communication as a Litigation Paralegal. He additionally held responsibility as a Financial Aid Counselor in higher education and as a School Support intern for the U.S. Department of Education. In and through these various responsibilities, Hunter has earned a reputation for rapidly learning and assimilating data, identifying core issues to be addressed, making sense of chaos, and maximizing business value.

Hunter graduated from Wake Forest University with distinction, earning B.A. degrees in two majors: Economics and Political Science. He has earned additional certifications as a Six Sigma Green Belt, a Certified Agile Project Team Lead, Lean Process Improvement, and as a Certified Change Management Professional. Furthermore, Hunter has sought out opportunities to serve in his church, his community and is drawn to global issues such as those he experienced in Calcutta, India while working with Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity.

Onward and upward,


KBP ranks 7th in Rwanda’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Midsize Companies

Karisimbi Partners was recognized for its strong growth and contribution to the Rwandan economy (ranked 7 out of Top 100). This year’s awards focused on fast growing mid-sized companies in recognition of the fact that the SME sector is a key contributor to the economic growth of Rwanda.  http://www.rdb.rw/rdbawards/

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) partnered with KPMG and Nation Media Group (NMG), to recognize and award mid- sized companies. The partnership combined both the Rwanda Top 100 and Business Excellence Awards 2012 and the event was held on November 30th, 2012.