Entrepreneur in conversation: Annick Kabatesi

Annick Kabatesi is an entrepreneur from Burundi who successfully produces fashion from the bark of fig trees. She was born in 1983 in Muyinga Province in northeastern Burundi. Today she lives and works in Bujumbura. In an interview with the SEZ, she talks about her everyday work.

SEZ: What is the first thing you do when you start working?
Annick Kabatesi: When I start my work, I take my smartphone, check my emails, WhatsApp, phone messages, Facebook and Twitter to make sure there are no urgent messages that change the agenda. This takes me 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I drink a glass of water and a cup of coffee and get ready for the day. I consult my calendar to see what is most urgent. Then I prioritize. Just before I leave the house at 7.45:XNUMX a.m., I call the people we'll be working with during the day to remind them of our appointment. Then I go to the cafe to answer my emails and socialize with VIPs. After that I go to Murundikazi Fashion store to see how things are going with my sales agent.

SEZ: What does your work mean to you?
Annick Kabatesi: My work makes me very proud because it allows me to show my fellow citizens that our ancestors were brilliant and creative. My work also gives me dignity because it shows that women in general, and especially girls, are also capable of imagination and creativity and can start businesses based on this, even if they sometimes start small.

SEZ: What impact does your work have on your life, on society and on those around you?
Annick Kabatesi: My work allows me to make a living. This gives me a special position within Burundian and East African society. Anyone who says “clothes made from fig trees” today says Annick and whoever talks about Annick also talks about “clothes made from fig trees”. In my environment, young people are proud that one of their peers creates an original business and can live without depending on the work of others. Adults, on the other hand, are happy about the revival of our ancestors' technique of making clothes. The government is proud of me because they see me as a good example of a young creative and a supporter of Burundian tradition. High-level government actors like to wear my products (hats, briefcases, jackets,…) and regularly send me to foreign sustainability events to represent the country.

SEZ: What are your biggest challenges?
Annick Kabatesi: My biggest challenge is to make my product known internationally. I am regularly invited at national and regional levels and have already received several awards.

SEZ: What are your wishes for the future?
Annick Kabatesi: My wish is to propagate the endangered fig trees (Congensis and Ovata) so that my company can continue to have raw material. But also and above all to protect the environment and raise awareness for sustainable cultivation. I also hope that I can teach Burundian youth the technique of making sustainable clothing from fig bark. And I would like to improve the manufacturing technology so that I can be more competitive with clothing made from other materials such as cotton, synthetics, wool or nylon, without losing sight of the sustainable and organic approach.

SEZ: What would you do if you were head of the World Bank?
Annick Kabatesi: If I were the head of the World Bank, the first thing I would do is finance the proliferation of trees (particularly fig trees). Not only to ensure that I have enough raw material, but also and above all to protect the environment sustainably.

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