How four refugee friends baked their way to success in Rwanda

In the Southern Province of Rwanda, near the entrance of the Mugombwa refugee camp, stands a small bakery that emanates the delightful aroma of freshly baked donuts (locally called amandazi). 

Sirius Group Bakery is not just any bakery—it is a symbol of hope and triumph. Owned and operated by four tenacious young Congolese refugees, this bakery represents their relentless pursuit of success in the face of countless challenges.

The four friends, Uwizeye Bajyahe, Kamayirese Niyomugabo, Philemon Iransubije and Theoneste Murenzi met at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College (IPRC) in 2019, where they took a short course in baking and culinary arts. After graduating, they decided to join forces and start their own bakery in the Gisagara district, where they saw a niche in the market. 

“We used to live in the Kigeme refugee camp, but we noticed that there was a good opportunity for us in Gisagara. We discovered that Nyamagabe had three bakeries, and Gasarenda had two but surprisingly, there were no bakeries in Gisagara. This realization motivated our move. We chose to open our bakery near the entrance of the Mugombwa camp because it’s a strategic spot to attract both refugees and locals,” says Uwizeye, who handles the finances of Sirius Group.

But their dream was not easy to achieve. They faced many challenges in setting up and running their bakery. They struggled to find customers, capital, and equipment. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic also greatly impacted their business. To market their products, they invested a lot of money in transportation: they visited a lot of bakeries including those in Kigali to learn from them. For several months, they worked without getting paid as they were not making any profits. All they wanted was to break even and pay back their debts. But their hard work and perseverance paid off.

“In 2021, we joined Inkomoko, which provided us with bookkeeping training that elevated our business management skills. Additionally, we received loans from them. Currently, we are on our second loan of 800,000 Rwf (about $700). With the first loan, we purchased a bicycle to aid our supply operations,” highlights Uwizeye.

Freshly baked donuts (locally called amandazi)

With better skills and equipment, Sirius Group increased its production and sales. The bakery now makes a steady profit of 390,000 Rwf (about $350) per month. It supplies its products to the whole of Mugombwa and small towns around it, where it has loyal customers who love the quality and taste of their products.

Looking toward the future, the four ambitious bakers have grand aspirations. Their plans include expanding their team, broadening their market reach, and establishing their own factory.