The orphan then street urchin turned a great person behind a tremendous project!

Fablice Manirakiza is a proud and bright entrepreneur. He was born in Burundi, in Ngozi, in the district of Mwumba. He was only two years old when the civil war broke out in Burundi in 1993. After fleeing to Tanzania and then embarking on journey to Australia, Fablice continued his studies in Australia until he graduated at RMIT University in Melbourne in Intranational Business. After completing his bachelor, he extended his studies to an online course about Criminology and Injustice which he hasn’t completed yet. Today, he is behind a tremendous project Come and See Burundi whose ultimate goal is to transform Burundi. 

Back then, it wasn’t until 2012 when Fablice Manirakiza came back to Burundi for his first time from Australia. For in his Australian lifestyle, he has a music history background as well as his inspirational and innovational speaking, he did some work with ActionAid.  “In 2012 I was sent as the Ambassador of Actionaid. They took me to touristic sides all over Burundi. They showed me what they were doing and it really captured my attention.  I discovered that we have a heaven here, this country is just amazing. I remember that’s by that time that I started writing the name Come and See Burundi in my phone”, he recalls.

A tireless schooling journey

Fablice started his studies at his birthplace in Ngozi. When he was in the fourth grade, he became an orphan. He lost all his parents. “Life became so hard. I even ended up becoming a street boy. It was very difficult time. I was only eleven years old. You know how is a life of a street boy. I used to sniff petrol. It was really the terrible time of my life”, he remembers.

Fablice Manirakiza, during with our visit on site in Miroir Quarter.

His elder sister who fled to Tanzania will requested him to join her in Tanzania refugee camp. “I joined her. I stayed there for a year. That’s where I did a fourth grade which was actually bad for the education in the refugee camp was really very poor”, he regrets.

After, they were lucky to go to Australia. That’s where his education took a great shape. “I started doing my ESL-English as a Second Language for about 4 months. After that, I started year 7. As I was trying to be smart, I skipped the year 8 and, in 2007, I completed my high school”. Fortunately, he got scholarship to study in university. He studied the International Business at RMIT University which in Melbourne.

Come and See Burundi at the forefront of projects

Basically, it was just recently that the vision I had is very similar to the one of the President of Burundi. I have the same vision with His Excellency President of Burundi because I dream of transforming Burundi to a new Burundi. I dream of transforming it into a utopia country where everybody has a great life, a quality of life, accesses to healthy life, to employment, to pretty much happy lifestyle.” 

Fablice Manirakiza, during with our visit on site in Miroir Quarter.

In 2015, when he went to perform to East Timor, a country next to Australia, in front of more than five thousand people, he got inspired. “There was a voice telling me inside you’re doing this but you’re not doing anything for your country. At that time, the spirit caught me and told me: “go and do this for your country”. I came back to Burundi in 2016 and I was lucky enough to meet other young people with whom we share the same vision.”

It was only in 2018 that Fablice wanted to realize his ever-tremendous dream since his very first visit to Burundi from Australia in 2012.   “When coming back to Australia, I struggled to see how I can start Come and See Burundi. Most of my friends were not educated here in Burundi. So, there was nobody that could start such a venture will”, he confides.

Come and See Burundi will start with a kind of touristic company but merged to a bridge with which Fablice wanted to fill the gap between the outside world and Burundi. “I felt called to motivate the Burundian Diaspora to invest back home. I started the company and we started a bit of work”. 

Despite all challenges, Fablice never relinquished!

In 2018, when I was standing on the top of Café Gourmand. I was looking at the town of Bujumbura. There was a revelation like “you can do so much with this town. You can transform this town”.  And henceforth the vision of Come and See Burundi was going to have another shape.”

Houses of Come and See Burundi village in Miroir Quarter.

Fablice approached the bank BHB (Banque de l’Habitat du Burundi) which was “Fonds de l’Habitat Urbain” (Urban Housing Fund). They started discussing with SIP (Société Immobilière Publique) and Urbanism too.  They started grabbing his vision. However, it was mainly hard for they didn’t understand him. “These people think this young person is crazy. They thought I was mad but I told them that it’s doable.”

In order to make the bank understand well the need of partnership, Fablice will raise the idea of bringing them clients. “I said I am a diaspora member. I’ve sent so much money I have been robbed of by many people. My story entails only 0.1% of other victims of such a way because other Burundian diaspora had sent other so much money to Burundi and they had been scammed.  They sent it to the families who are not capable, who are not loyal. Then, these people will be your clients for they will give the mortgage and we will build for them. So, they finally agreed”, he reveals

His first location was Gitega, the district of Zege. He did some of the studies there and at the end of the day the authorities refused. This became then challenge for he had invested much money and thought he was going to lose it.

Fablice Manirakiza, during with our interview with him in his office.

Nevertheless, Fablice won’t throw in the towel. The BHB will tell him that there is a land given by the government in Miroir district. “I said what about if we do the project there? And they accepted. We did the first 2 houses of the objective of Burundi first gate community which contain about 28 houses.

A huge project of strengthening infrastructures

Come and See Burundi Village project has a value of ten billion Burundian Francs (BIF10,000,000,000), about five million dollars (USD 5,000,000). With more than five hundred employees a day, it’s a project that will complete after having provided more than fifty thousand jobs. “It’s a project that is bringing a huge development in Burundi because it motivated the Burundian Diaspora to invest in their home country.  Almost all the houses (about 90%) had been purchased by the Burundian diaspora. Their prices range from three hundred millions Burundian Francs (BIF 300,000,000) to five hundred millions Burundian Francs (BIF 500,000,000)”, says proudly Fablice. All the houses will be ready by December and an official launch of the Come and See Burundi Village will follow”, says proudly Fablice.

As Fablice adds, the project aims at motivating the Burundian diaspora to send the money back home and to strengthen the infrastructures of Burundi which are most of the time poor because the floods take out people’s houses. “If we build with this kind of development, it provides a better infrastructure. I am grateful that I do this great project that I have been thinking about it. I am so happy because the government said this the project, we want to adapt it to our country development”, he tells.

What is the biggest obstacle you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

Fablice Manirakiza, during with our interview with him in his office.

The main challenge is the people who don’t understand this mortgage system here in Burundi. I think I am the one who introduced it but people didn’t get it. Now, when I started this project, they thought it was just Fablice, a young person who is dreaming.  When it became reality, I had people who wanted to keep me out. I’ve worked with my whole life for this project and you can’t keep me out. You will rather kill me right now, see my blood on the ground and take over the project. I think the challenge was these people who wanted to overtake me from project but God did it. So, God made me overcome. 

If your phone could ring right now with your dream opportunity, what would that be?

Fablice Manirakiza, during with our interview with him in his office.

To transform Burundi into Dubai. I have seen our great President talked about doing it. I think he is the only person who sees what I see. I remember he gave us a speech saying we can transform this country within fifteen years, we can create it a Dubai.  Now I think we can act and do it.

Coming back to this project, I want to use it like a pilot project to see what I am capable of because in Burundi tradition and culture people don’t support each other, which is very sad. But doing this I hope people will say you know what Fablice is capable. 

What do you want people to remember most about you and your career?

Fablice Manirakiza, during our visit on site in Miroir Quarter where houses are being built by Come and See Burundi.

I am a young person who is crazy enough to think I can change the world. So, I want people to remember me as a person who has created a better life, who has achieved the unachievable, or who has started the revolution and created a better life quality for Burundi and beyond Africa. I feel it like a great dream. I am inspired by people like Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Muammar Gaddafi. I always dream of seeing United Sates of Africa. That’s where I dream. I feel like if I cannot do it, let me talk about it, let me show people that is doable. 

What do you think about entrepreneurship in Burundi? 

Fablice Manirakiza, after our interview with him in his office.

In Burundi it’s hard but it is the way of life. I feel like the way of entrepreneurship, if you’re able to overcome and take yourself up, you create your own freedom, and you will create your own empire. Nonetheless, challenge that I have seen in entrepreneurship is that people in Burundi, they don’t know how it works.  They think if they wake up in the morning and create a company, tomorrow they be be rich, they will be successful. So, people must understand that something to be bigger must start small. And something to be huge has to have a struggle throughout the way.

What can you advise the Burundian people, especially the youth?

Fablice Manirakiza, during with our interview with him in his office.

I think each and everybody can play a huge key role into tackling the unemployment in Burundi. Talking to Burundians, especially the youth, there is so much work we can do here. There are so many opportunities. I’ve seen people trying to flee, trying to go to Europe, to Serbia but I can advise them that even if you go to Europe, there is nothing new there. 

Within entrepreneurship is that each and every person be creative and be innovative into every sector as young Burundians, we’re smart than others. I think the problem is that we’ve been distracted by our past. Today, I think we should differentiate ourselves from the struggles that our history has created. We have to create our own history and come up with a great project with a new system of helping each other. We have to go beyond what separates us and focus on our common ground which is Burundi.