Case Studies

Jean Marie Vianney , Bridge Programme

21st April 2021

Innovation is at the heart of every entrepreneur’s journey, none more so than Jean Marie Vianney, a young man from Rwanda who’s experience on the Bridge Programme with Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator has given him a whole new outlook for his future.

Since 2008, single use plastic bags have been illegal in Rwanda, a world-leading move that has helped the country combat the growing problem of plastic pollution driven by their fast-growing infrastructure. The move has not only helped reduce damaging waste and air pollution, caused by the burning of plastic waste, but it has created opportunities for creative individuals like Jean Marie Vianney to fill a gap in the market.

Before joining the Harambee and Prince’s Trust International Bridge Programme, Jean Marie Vianney was struggling to see the way forward during the global pandemic that had made finding a job increasingly difficult. He was living what he describes as a ‘very poor life’ due to the lockdown in Rwanda and finding it hard to provide for the basic needs of his family.

For Jean Marie Vianney, joining the Bridge Programme was a transformative opportunity. The programme, run by Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, supports young people in Rwanda into work by helping them develop new employability skills. Through the programme, young people undertake a four-week intensive English language acceleration course, in tandem with employability training, and modules on professionalism and problem solving.

By participating in the Bridge Programme, Jean Marie Vianney was able to improve his English and learn how to problem solve, whilst gaining the insight and understanding he needed to identify what skills he already possessed, and how he could use them to make money.

Jean Marie Vianney says that the ‘programme opened {his} eyes’, encouraging him to discover ways he could innovate to make his life easier. It is from this newfound awareness that his business was created.

Rising to meet the need for a different kind of grocery bag, necessitated by the revolutionary single-use plastic bag ban, Jean Marie Vianney began to make woven reusable bags. This creative solution not only built on the skills that Jean Marie already had to weave the bags but helped to meet a direct need within his community in a sustainable way – by producing a strong, reliable and reusable alternative to single use bags.


“[The Bridge Programme] taught me how to identify the skills I have and how I can use them to make money”

Since launching his business, Jean Marie Vianney has taught his wife how to craft the bags, which are all made by hand. She now helps him with the business, making his enterprise a truly family affair, and he hopes one day to train more people and to open up a factory. With the business skills he has learnt through the Bridge programme, Jean Marie will one day bring his reusable bags to even more people in Rwanda, creating employment within his community as he does so.

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