Zulfat Mukarubega, Founder & Legal Representative, RTUC Rwanda Tourism University College – the first (and only) Rwanda Tourism University

Words of Wisdom: “Work hard. Be confident. Grow to develop our world.” – Zulfat Mukarubega, Rwanda TourismUniversity

Zulfat Mukarubega, Founder & Legal Representative, RTUC Rwanda Tourism University College – the first (and only) Rwanda Tourism University


Zulfat Mukarubega, Founder & Legal Representative, RTUC Rwanda Tourism University College – the first (and only) Rwanda Tourism University

Zulfat Mukarubega founded the first (and only) Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) which is an institution of higher learning that provides undergraduate programmes in Travel and Tourism Management, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Business Information Technology and a number of Vocational training courses.

In Jan 2012, Zulfat was honoured as the Woman Entrepreneur of the year by Rwanda Development Board (RDB). This is an initiative to recognize and reward the impeccable achievement of women entrepreneurs in the private sector in addition her business was recognized AS the Best SME in Tourism Sector.

website: rtuc.rw/

Zulfat Mukarubega, Founder & Legal Representative, RTUC Rwanda Tourism University College – the first (and only) Rwanda Tourism University

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your comments and words of wisdom !

What was the catalyst for starting the Rwanda tourism university?

 The customer care in Rwanda was very low. I researched hotels and restaurants they don’t have enough skills so I created a university that would assist them and elevate the Rwandan service industry.

You went from ten dollars to starting a restaurant, to walking a very long distance to work and it was extremely successful. Then four other companies came along to start competing for your business. You then added a service area to your business. Then you opened a boutique. Then you went into fashion, then into owning a furniture store. You were successful in the business, so why create a school to education a lot of people?

I travelled to many different countries and saw the service they provided in many of the hotels and restaurant, it was very good. I thought why couldn’t my country provide such high service?

I wanted to contribute to my country. I received all my previous success because I was a businesswoman but after that I thought it was more important to contribute to my country. In Rwanda there was no school or university for tourism.

The university started in 2006 with five students.

People come to learn how to work in hotels and restaurants because they were getting jobs quickly and learn customer care. They learn how to become entrepreneurs so they can open restaurants or create tour companies.

You were the founder of the first tourism university, as well as many of your other businesses, what advice would you give to a woman if she sees a business opportunity and there is no one providing that services?

I advise women to be creative with the opportunities they have. When starting a business start small and work very hard to grow the business. If they have another business, think more about what is next and what can you create in addition to your business.

If you have a shop with many customers, think beyond that shop and how you can offer more to your customers.

I would also recommend thinking about how you can help your country and create a business to fill a need. It is not always about making money, but think how you can help people. I had a good business, but for me it was important to assist others to create their job.

I have read that you said the university is “a place for those women and men who shall be pioneers; it is a place for those who shall experiment with the cutting edge of contemporary thought and creative expression” In my experience from talking to many African leaders that there is not enough innovation and not enough creativity, what do you do at your school to encourage innovation and creativity?

I talk to them about how I started my businesses with little money and how I grew. I tell them if they have good country and governance that they need have a responsibility to create jobs. At the University we have an incubation center to promote creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Often people when they graduate want to seek a job, but we are encouraging entrepreneurship through the incubation center.

Which is wonderful, because there is a job seeker and job creator. You are trying to develop job creators within the tourism industry.

Do you think Rwandan youth are embracing creativity?

More now, because our university is increasing in enrollment. The mind set has changed and many youth realize there is a lot of opportunity in hospitality and tourism. We started the university in 2006 and some individuals graduated in 2007 and received jobs easily and some became entrepreneurs. Students who went to other university we offered them to come to our university for a year. When they leave they receive a job quickly and many also become entrepreneurs.

As you know I am very passionate about services. I have read you say: “My target is to teach and train each and every one in order to achieve quality and professionalism both in the local and international front. What are some of the criteria you are advocating to achieve professionalism in the service industry?

Good Service and Customer Care. The students are in demand in East Africa.
Smiling is part of our culture as well as to care about others.

We teach how to deal with different cultures and how to make money using our culture.  We help students learn how to be confident in customer care.

From your perspective, do you think Rwandans want to provide better service?

Not enough. The university started in 2006 and in the time we have been operating there are not enough students. We have many restaurants and hotels, and they employ many people that don’t have skills.

We provide internship for students the problem is the people that are managing them don’t have the skills to teach the students.

The Government has assisted by sending people to Kenya for their internship, because they learn more about hospitality because they have had a tourism school 13 years, a lot longer than Rwandans. We need more skills

What is interesting about what you are talking about is the Rwandans mangers have not been trained to the level of required professionalism.

What would you recommend for companies to get the best from their employees to create better service.

Implement teamwork. Ensure you engage people in all projects.

Work hard and well with your employees. If your employees do a good job, make sure you say thank you. Not everything needs to be negative. You can give advice; however, couch it by saying something positive first. “You did … very well.” You can make feedback more effective in this way.

It is good to evaluate in positive way.

I have noticed if one person serves me I get a better service then when there several people service me. Do you have any thoughts on it?

Often people will not speak to a foreigner because they are not confident.

What do you think is the most significance you have made to date?

I changed completely my life, as I am rich now.

The impact I have made on my country and other people because many students have created their own jobs.

Also we have many orphans in Rwanda due to genocide, I have paid for more than 50 orphans to finish their studies. Now many go to work. I don’t know who they are. I have gone to restaurants and a young person will come up to me and call me ‘mommy’ and let me know that I have helped develop them.

I also feel that I have contributed to developing my country. I have contributed by helping youth and women to be entrepreneurs.

If there was one thing you attribute your success to what would it be?

Ability to work hard.

What is the most challenging aspect of your career?

It cost a lot to develop the university. I have a plan to expand. I am challenge to get money to build our campus. It will cost us twenty-four million dollars US to build the campus.

What marketing are you going to fundraise to get that money?

It is a challenge as Rwandan interest rates is very high. I would like to get a partner to work with.  I would like to get a foreigner who is retired who has experience to assist with the expansion.  I am looking for a retired, English speaking, foreigner who wants to invest in the expansion.

Is there an event that made you the success you are today?

I like good change and I like nice things. Everyday I think about my life I say I will get everything. I say I can. Men can get what they want, why can’t women? People think I may fail, but I work hard and I will not fail. When I left my husband I did not ask for anything. Even when he got remarried I gave money to him to help support his new family.  I give it because God gave me a lot, so I give to other people.

Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of yourself when you push the edge of your comfort zone). What is something that you are uncomfortable doing, but you need to continue to do, in order to make you as successful as you are?

I have a barrier of my English. I need to improve my English. It is limiting me to market to other countries.  It is a barrier but I do try.

Did you know this interview was going to be in English?

Yes, but it is a little uncomfortable, but I am doing it anyway.

What does success mean to you?

To be a person in the world who does good things and is a good example to others.

How would you define leadership?

I have leadership, but it is not enough because people who work here have PHDs and Masters, bachelor degree. It is difficult for me to evaluate them as I don’t have either of those degrees. To be in leadership you have to be able to evaluate your company and your people.

In my plan I want someone to help me to do the evaluation.  I may not have the education to evaluate, but I do it in other ways.

What is your education?

It is a secondary school only. I don’t have any degree.  My husband would not allow me to go for my degree.

A lot of Africans put a lot of emphasis on education, and not enough on motivation and desire. You are a great example of both of those things. You have achieved what you have achieved by sheer will.  

Leadership Lessons

To be a leader you have to have it in your heart.  You need to think about what you want and how to achieve your vision. I don’t have a Masters or PHD but I do know how to manage my staff. We talk together and I appreciate them. If they have a mistake, I don’t come off strong, I communicate like my sister and my brother.  I am not a boss we are the same, partners.

What is next for you?

Firstly to build my campus.

Secondly, there is a need in my country in different district. It is difficult for people to come from the south to come to Kigali for education. I want to help in those different districts.

Reflective Realizations

Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old daughter?

Encourage her to be like me, an entrepreneur, to be innovative. To have experiences outside her country and to study abroad.

Words of Wisdom for African women

Work hard. Be confident. Grow to develop our world.


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    1 Response to "Zulfat Mukarubega"

    • kajyibwami N.

      Hello mama Zulfat, you are so impeccable; we appreciate what you do for Rwandan youth, for making their capacity. I also appreciate also Byogenic Beauty Spot. I have a dream to make a spa here in Rwanda. May God wishes.Thanks

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