Entrepreneur taps into local know-how for help with Rwanda's 1st craft brewery

A Rwandan entrepreneur is hoping to open her country's first craft brewery and give most of the jobs to women, and an Ottawa-area brewery has stepped in to help.

'Right now there's none, there's no craft beer [in Rwanda],' says Fina Uwineza

Beau's All Natural Brewing Company CEO Steve Beauchesne, left, is helping entrepreneur Fina Uwineza, right, set up Rwanda's first craft brewery. (CBC)

A Rwandan entrepreneur is hoping to open her country's first craft brewery and give most of the jobs there to women, and an Ottawa-area brewery has stepped in to help.

Fina Uwineza, a restaurateur who hails from Kigali, has been spending time at Beau's All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ont., to learn more about beer-making after the brewery offered to help Uwineza get started.

"Right now there's none, there's no craft beer. We have only two breweries, which are international — Heineken and Skol — so this is going to be amazing and the first craft beer in Rwanda," Uwineza told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday.

The brewery, if it comes to fruition, would employ about five to 15 people. But Uwineza hopes the company will grow everything it needs for the beer locally, which would employ a great deal more people.

Uwineza hopes they'll mostly be women.

"That's the main idea so that we can help the women in the village, the women who are less fortunate. That's my passion, actually ... If we can grow all the raw materials in Rwanda, that means I can go to the village and the women will be growing the ingredients, and from there we can really see the impact," she said.

'This won't be a Beau's brewery'

Steve Beauchesne, co-founder and CEO of Beau's, became involved after the Ontario Craft Brewers organization — of which he is a member — heard a pitch for help. He said Wednesday his company doesn't have a financial or ownership stake in the project.

"Just to be very, very clear, this won't be a Beau's brewery. This is going to be Fina's brewery. We're helping her get the project off the ground," Beauchesne said.

"Not only is it not going to say Beau's on the bottle, we're not going to take any ownership, we're not going to take any profit. We're doing this purely to help."

Beauchesne said he became more interested after learning about growing co-ops in Rwanda, where health and education are provided for. 

"It really becomes a sort of family support system, and it's helping rural families. The brewery itself will probably have, I'm guessing five to 15 people employed, which is great, but the real impact here is going to be the dozens, if not hundreds of women and families that will be benefiting because of the agricultural side of this," he said.

His brewing team in Vankleek Hill has been working on recipes using traditional ingredients, including bananas and sorghum.

"A lot of what has been cool in craft [brewing] has been rediscovering these kind of lost traditions and reviving them, so that's got our brewing team really excited, obviously," he said.