Rwanda has made many forays into global fashion retail markets over the years. Rwandan products have been sold in the world’s most successful retail outlets from Costco to Macy’s to Anthropologie. The textile industry in East Africa provides an opportunity for massive growth in low skilled employment, helping countries make the leap from being primarily agriculture-based economies. To-date these endeavors have been driven by the unique characteristics of the supplier – an African style or an African story. They have seldom, if ever, been built around long-term sustainable market demand. Because of that, the potential for this industry continues to remain unrealized across the region.
Kate Spade & Co. has a history of developing market opportunities for the poor around the world. The Kate Spade & Co. team had worked in Rwanda for years and through that experience, envisioned a new model of socially conscious economic development that would be based on Trade, not just on Aid. They realized that to accomplish this would require years of ongoing support in-country from trusted advisors who knew the local context, had experience throughout Rwanda’s entire social, political and economic eco-systems, and ultimately could “get things done.” Karisimbi Partners has been fortunate to fill that role on behalf of Kate Spade & Co. From initial feasibility analysis to overseeing construction of buildings to finalizing partnerships at the highest levels of the Rwandan Government; from hiring and leading a team of best-in-class Rwandan and expat managers, to supervising the day-to-day challenges of training and building a community of more than 200 artisans; Karisimbi Partners serves as the hands and feet in Rwanda of this world-changing endeavor. Since its inception, it continues to be built on the foundation of a relentless commitment to serve customers with the most beautiful, highest quality fashion products in the world. And it has succeeded because it was envisioned by, funded through and championed by a uniquely committed and compassionate team of professionals at Kate Spade & Co.
Abahizi Dushyigikirane Ltd. (ADC), a locally owned fashion products manufacturer, in two short years, has become one of the largest textile exporters from Rwanda, and only the second company ever to receive Export Processing Zone status from the Rwandan government. It employs over 200 women artisans whose families now have access to healthcare, can afford to send children to school and are starting to build social and economic assets that are transforming their entire community. ADC’s products sit on the shelves of stores from London to New York to Hong Kong and are of a style, design and quality indistinguishable from those produced anywhere else in the world, except for the fact that they have been produced On Purpose in Rwanda.