Lydie Hakizimana returned to Rwanda after the genocide as a teenager to find out that her generation had lost all hope in the future. But she believed in the power of stories to provide people with not only a source of renewed hope and inspiration, but also escapism. Lydie wanted the next generation to imagine a happier story – not easy when painful memories of the genocide were still very raw. Her own personal love affair with books and literature started early. As a child, she was taught how to read by her mother and reading her first book L’Enfant Noir by Camara Laye in French at Les Etoiles Brilliantes a primary school in Chad. Her mother was in charge of teaching literature at home and her father was in charge of teaching science. Today, she has a passion for improving children’s literacy in the country – that passion sowed the initial seeds of a new entrepreneurial venture that was to change her destiny.
Lydie began by selling her own books from a small store in her spare time. She and husband, Tunga Kalisa, had always been avid readers and collected books from their travels. In 2006, they opened a small used bookstore in Rwanda and started to develop relationships with global publishing companies. She struck a deal with UK publisher’s Pearson Education to resell their textbooks in Rwanda and Burundi. The deal was the making of her company. Rwanda’s goal is to be a knowledge-based economy, and shortly before her deal with Pearson the Ministry of Education had ordered that primary and secondary education be taught in English rather than French, creating a great demand for English textbooks that still remains. Since that time, Lydie’s initial bookstore has developed into a major business, known as Drakkar Limited. Now her company is helping to spread English literacy in schools and is building a culture of reading in Rwanda that will benefit generations to come. Drakkar Limited has added exclusive distributor deals with Longman, Heinemann and Penguin to the Pearson contract.
Drakkar rapidly evolved into a leading educational textbooks reseller in Rwanda, becoming an important enabler of her country’s vision for building a knowledge-based economy. Today, Lydie manages 45 employees and thirty part-time distributors.
Lydie is the chairperson of the Rwanda’s Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs and in 2012 she became a member of the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship Programme.
Lydie Hakizimana’s journey proves to us all that women entrepreneurs have the power to make an incredible and remarkable difference in our society.
This article was culled from Lioness of Africa.