We hear the term entrepreneurship quite often and it is now a global trend that has been in the spotlight for some time. And, yes, it is true that entrepreneurship is on the rise; several organisations advocate for its cause in various settings. In Rwanda, it is taught in schools, discussed at conferences and workshops, and the government urges people — especially the young — to become entrepreneurs. No question most initiatives are going in the right direction. But how much do we understand what it really means, or what takes, to be an entrepreneur?

Does one become an entrepreneur the moment the Office of the Registrar General (ORG), at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), issues them a certificate of business registration? Absolutely not. Does one become an entrepreneur the moment they craft a “brilliant” idea to solve a specific problem in the community? No.

On the contrary, one becomes an entrepreneur the moment they decide that their career path will be traced through an independent venture and start acting on it. Most important, one must take the risk and follow the path. It is difficult, of course, and it is not for everyone to do — that is perhaps why it’s risky.

For entrepreneurship to flourish and reach great effect in our country, it is important we grow a common and deep understanding of what it truly means to be an entrepreneur. Yes, we are at an exciting time where entrepreneurship is very encouraged (it gives everyone an equal push to enterprise), but it’s crucial to understand that it is not opening a business — or simply starting one’s own “new thing” — that makes one an entrepreneur.

Worse, if a person still relies on a monthly salary from a certain institution (note that this is not a bad thing at all considering that it earns them an income) but have a side-business they own, they are not necessarily an entrepreneur. In another world, in fact, acting as an investor, however small it might be, would make more sense.

I am writing this because — like many fellow Kigali residents — I meet people with great potential, big ideas, and well-meaning attitudes and ambitions; besides the many initiatives and programmes designed to promote entrepreneurship and encourage job creation. They all need support but it can only be done effectively if it reaches the right people.

Before I start writing this article, just to be sure I don’t get it wrong, I looked for the definition of the word entrepreneur in a dictionary. An entrepreneur, it says, is “a person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” I could not be more satisfied. It is crucial to understand what the phrase “organises and manages” really means in this definition, and how many roles the terms “considerable” and “risk” play.

In defining entrepreneurship, risk (not just financial) is a very important component and, in this context, it is only right to rally around those who have dared to take it. They are the ones who are more likely to sustain their ventures and lead to success.

If you are not yet ready to take the risk, please do justice to entrepreneurship and stop calling yourself an entrepreneur if you’re not one.

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