The host of our online picnic on Lake Burera (see the video below) is Bélancille Twizerimana, and this is a little introduction to this amazing businesswoman, illustrated with Cyuza Island images …
Bella is a former teacher and banker who entered the tourism industry through a bakery. Among other businesses, she runs two guest houses (one in Kinigi, one one the edge of Volcanoes National Park), two restaurants (one in Kinigi and one Musanze) and the Cyuza Island campsite on Burera. They are all branded “La Paillotte” (grass hut) [Instagram link].
Born in Musanze to a very poor family, she managed to study up to secondary level. She taught for a decade but realised that she didn’t earn enough money, nor had enough opportunity to impact the society the way she had always dreamed. She started a small restaurant away from her home town, to earn enough money for a business degree at Kigali University.
With that education successfully acquired she became a bank manager. “When you are from an impoverished background you have a dream of being wealthy or just better off than your family was. That gives you determination,” says Bella.
She got to know about a European enterprise that taught locals how to bake bread. One of the leaders was Giuseppe Lippolis, an Italian who lived in Belgium. He had a big desire to help young Rwandans — specially street children and the disabled — by creating job opportunities. Bella had the same dream, so in 2008 she left the world of banking and began working with Giuseppe. He remains her main partner today.
She set up her first baking project at Mitobo at the base of Mt Sabyinyo, followed by nearby Kinigi. Because this was a tourism area, it made sense to add accommodation. in 2013 she opened a restaurant in the centre of Musanze. A couple of years later she heard of intriguing developments on Lake Burera …
“The government was evacuating people from the islands to help them move closer to essential services like schools, churches and better health care. We felt it would be a great opportunity for us as investors, so we bought Cyuza Island with an ambition that we would add to the development of Rwanda,” Bella explains. In 2017 the island was ready for visitors.
But her vision goes further. “I believe that the travel and hospitality industry is like a hospital; if one of us is healthy, they should help those who aren’t strong yet,” she concludes.
photos by Miha Logar