Two orphanages and their adventurous way to their own business. The story of Chance Tubane and her brother Patience Nduwawe is a story of hope, chance – and business. Orphaned and separated at a young age, victims of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the siblings were reunited ten years after and unitedly they have started their own company. Just two years after its launch, Tohoza, an advertising platform, is a huge success story.
–. Back in 1994, the siblings, along with their parents and brother, fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape the violence plaguing Rwanda. But while in Goma, their mother passed away from blood loss following surgery.
It was then that it was decided that it would be better for Tubane, who was 11 at the time, to go and live with her godmother in Belgium. Nduwawe, six years older than Tubane, stayed behind with his father and brother and continued his school education.
But in 1996, just after Nduwawe had traveled to the city of Bukavu by himself to take his university entrance exams, violence erupted in the eastern DRC, forcing his father and brother to head back to Rwanda.
For Nduwawe, however, there was no escape route. Alone in a foreign country, he had to follow the refugee direction an struggle himself in DR Congo. Nduwawe says:
“During all those years, I was struggling in the DR Congo without knowing if my father or my brother or my sister, were still alive – I was without any information.”
Back home, no one knew anything about Nduwawe or his whereabouts. His father and relatives were constantly trying to track him but their efforts were proving fruitless, since Nduwawe had found refuge in Walikale, an isolated region in eastern DRC situated in the middle of equatorial forest.
In late 2003 some relatives managed to finally trace Nduwawe in Rwanda’s neighboring country. Convinced that his relatives were still alive, Nduwawe embarked on the dangerous journey on foot. Passing through armed militia and traveling at night, he traversed the eastern DRC’s tough terrains for one week before managing to reach Bukavu. There, a family member was waiting for him to get him back home and sadly inform him that his father had passed away a couple of months before.
In Belgium, Tubane was ecstatic about her brother’s return.
The siblings have combined their skills in IT and communication to launch Tohoza.com, Rwanda’s top online advertisement platform. Similar to the popular Western website Craigslist, Tohoza is a web-based classified ad directory where Rwandans can post or look for job vacancies as well as buy, sell and rent just about anything — from houses and cars to watches and shoes.
Just two years after its launch, Tohoza is today the third most popular website in Rwanda, with about 9,000 visitors per day. Nduwawe:
“We said we had to create a product that would help a lot of people. What Rwandans need now is information, so we started Tohoza to deliver the most accurate and timely information to them.”
Tubane says the main objective of their business venture is not to make money but to present a different, more optimistic narrative about their country.
“When you went to Google and you wrote Rwanda, you used to have all the stories about the genocide. But now, if you write Rwanda, you can have jobs, cars and get another image of the country — a positive image that’s bringing hope to people.”