Oklahoma Christian students organize Rwandan summit

According to Oklahoma Christian University student and Rwandan citizen Tim Kaboya, 43 percent of Rwanda’s population is younger than 14. Believing that today’s college students can inspire future generations, Kaboya and a group of Rwandan students at Oklahoma Christian are organizing a summit on leadership and entrepreneurship on June 23.

The Rwandan Emerging Leaders and Entrepreneurs Summit will be in Hardeman Auditorium on the Oklahoma Christian campus and begins at 9:30 a.m. College students from across the United States will attend, and the event is open to the public.

ELE Rwanda’s five-person advisory board includes three OC administrators. The summit is yet another partnership between Oklahoma Christian and Rwanda.

“We have more than 60 Rwandan students studying at Oklahoma Christian right now,” said John deSteiguer, president of the university. “This summit gives us an opportunity to impact even more. Many of these students are studying to be future business owners and entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurship, an ideal that has been central to economic success in Oklahoma and throughout the United States, is one of the main topics at the summit.

“As Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has said, entrepreneurship is the backbone of our country’s economy, and is the foundation of where Rwanda needs to go,” said Tony Kajangwe, an Oklahoma Christian student and ELE Rwanda organizer.

Fifteen organizations from the United States and Rwanda are sponsoring the summit, including the Rwandan Embassy in Washington, D.C. In addition to Oklahoma Christian University, other Oklahoma-based sponsors include the Institute for the Empowerment of Women’s Peace Through Business Program, Oklahoma City entrepreneur Jay Martin, Rwandan Girls Empowerment and Oklahoma Christian’s food service provider UDining. In addition, Oklahoma Christian alumni and OKC-area entrepreneurs Mark Stansberry and Ken Parker are involved with the summit. The Edmond Chamber of Commerce, Creative Oklahoma and Sister Cities OKC have also promoted the event.

The themes for the summit are Innovate, Integrate and Motivate. The event will include panel discussions, interactive workshops, exhibitions of current projects and ideas from Rwandan youth, a symposium on entrepreneurship and a Rwandan cultural show including a performance by Rwandan musician The Ben.

The summit will also include a Business Plan competition regarding ideas that provide tailored solutions to Rwandan needs. The competition is intended to simulate the real-world process of entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early-stage investors. The top three winners will share $4,000 in awards.

According to Kaboya, ELE Rwanda is one way he and other students can make positive changes in the world.  

“It is our hope that the event will be a springboard for many future leaders and innovators that will have a considerable impact on Rwanda and the world,” Kaboya said. “It is also our sincere hope to portray and share Rwandan culture to the American community.”

Kaboya believes Rwandan students need networking opportunities, in addition to funds. 

“Due to a lack of funds and lack of proper networking avenues, many well-thought ideas fail to be implemented,” he said. “ELE will provide those opportunities essential in promoting youth ideas and projects and inspiring young individuals. These established network links will be supplemented by American partnerships and entrepreneurs who are inspired byRwanda and particularly its future development.”

During Oklahoma Christian’s spring graduation in late April, ELE Rwanda organizers met with Rwanda’s Minister of Education Vincent Biruta and James Kimonyo, Rwanda’s ambassador to the United States. The two officials came to see 11 students graduate from Oklahoma Christian, the third group of Rwandan Presidential Scholars to graduate. After graduation, the ELE Rwanda leaders presented plans for the June 23 summit.  

Those interested in attending ELE Rwanda can register online at www.elerwanda.com/registration. There is no cost to attend. For more information, contact Kaboya via e-mail at tim@elerwanda.com.