The Case for Black With a Capital B



Cecile Musanase and the Akilah Institute

October 25, 2013

By Talia Whyte

Cecile Musanase and fellow student Julian Kankunda were speakers at the Akilah Institute’s Metropolitan Safari fundraiser held at the Museum of African American History Oct. 10.  The Akilah Institute for Women is a college that offers market-relevant education with campuses in Kigali, Rwanda and Bujumbura, Burundi.  Since it’s opening in 2010, it has made an important impact on education and training for women in Africa.

According to Akilah, 97 percent of students are the first in their families to go to college.  The first class of Akilah students graduated in 2012 with 100 percent job placement.  These are very important numbers as one third of the young women are heads of their households and their likely income increases significantly after graduation.  The students are trained to pursue careers in fast growing fields like information technology, entrepreneurship and hospitality management.

The school has grown so popular that this year Akilah received 1500 applications for only 150 spots. Akilah hopes to open more campuses in East Africa in the near future.  It is really nice to hear about these positive stories coming out of Africa over the negative stories we are generally used to hearing about in the Western media.  I was most impressed that the school has an emphasis on information technology, because for many of the girls, it is their first time using a computer, and IT is an industry that desperately needs more women, regardless of country origin.

Akilah has also partnered with Marriott Hotels to train a group of Rwandan women to work in the hotel industry.  The women trained and worked in hotels in the Middle East, and they will play an instrumental role in helping to open the Marriott’s first hotel in Sub-Saharan Africa – the Kigali Marriott Hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2014.  Most of the employees for the hotel are expected to be from Rwanda.

Musanase joined Akilah in 2011.  Up until that point she only did domestic work in her home like many other women in her community.

“I never thought I would have any opportunities,” Musanase said. “But now I will have opportunities because of Akilah.  I have job interviews lined up.”