Photo Credit: TN
Three Black Expats In Rwanda Share All About Life In Musanze
Three Black expats in Rwanda share what life is like as Diasporans living on the continent. Musanze is Rwanda’s ecological town, about 2.5 hours from Kigali the capital. While most expats opt for life in Kigali, Colin, Mama Moon and Lady Visionary, had a different path in mind.
Between them, their pure creativity while living on foreign, though familiar, terrain paired with their fiery love for Rwanda keeps us hopeful about life in Rwanda. In this Travel Noire expat interview, you’ll discover what to expect from life in Rwanda as a Black Diasporan:
Tell us who you are
Mama Moon: I am the proud mother of 2 adult children and the grandmother of 3 adorable girls. I have spent a good deal of time traveling and relocating as one of 7 daughters of a career military man. I was born in Verdun, France and lived in Frankfurt, Germany until I was 5 years old. My family moved back to the U.S. and I spent most of my youth growing up in and around Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, as an adult, I have lived in California, Michigan, Oklahoma, Virginia and Florida. I am the Founder and Chief Strategist of Domino Strategy Consulting, LLC, an international business development firm. I also started a company in Rwanda, East Africa Impact Investments Ltd., under which I own and operate Culture Coffee Cafe located in the town of Musanze.
Colin: Trinidad and Tobago is the land of my birth. At the age of twenty I migrated to Los Angeles, California to fulfill my dream of becoming an Industrial Engineer.
After my studies were completed, I got married and raised two sons and worked in corporate America for decades. Beyond my busy professional life, I needed questions about my heritage answered to fill a void deep within. I joined an African history group and researched African history. Reading provided some answers but after retirement and a divorce I decided to live on the continent.
Lady Visionary: I am a Jamaican born, who left at a young age for the UK. I spent most of my life in the UK where I obtained a degree in Physiotherapy. I have worked as a Physiotherapist for the past 10 years and also have a Masters in Global Health and International Development. I went on to study a Masters due to my growing interest in becoming an influencer for Development in Africa.
What led you all to Rwanda?
Mama Moon: One of my life’s goals has been to live in Africa. Even though my intention was to one day move to Africa, I always thought it would be West Africa. In February 2020, I travelled to Rwanda with a group of women on a business seeking trip. I had done extensive research on Rwanda during the previous 6 months and I was very impressed with the information I had gathered. I felt that it was a place that deserved a look and see before deciding if I would move somewhere on the west coast like Ghana or Senegal (where I had visited on my first trip to the continent in 2004). During my stay in Africa, I spent 10 days in Rwanda, traveled to Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. At the conclusion of my stay, I decided that Rwanda had all the bells and whistles for me because I felt at home. In addition, as a business woman, I knew from my research that Rwanda was a great place to be at the time with a myriad of opportunities and options for me to start a business.
Colin: After the horrendous tragedy in Rwanda in 1994, I followed the rise of a phoenix from its ashes as this tiny nation in the middle of the continent outpaced the rest of Africa in its rapid development. The choice of my new home was easy. Rwanda was on its second phase of a twenty-year development program when I arrived here in October 2019 and I lived in Kimihurura a pleasant section of Kigali.
Lady Visionary: During my teenage years I grew up seeing alot of negative media on Africa. In my twenties I decided that I would explore the African continent as I believed that there was a different side to the story. I visited Ghana first and it was an eye opening experience. Although Africa has many challenges, there’s a lot of beauty here too. I learned more about my history and my identity. I was inspired to continue to explore Africa.
When I meet my partner then, now husband who is Rwandan, I expressed to him I would like to live in Africa.
He invited me to visit Rwanda. I started visiting Rwanda regularly and I was blown away by the history and progress influenced by the current President Paul Kagame.
I wanted to position myself and family in a country that aligned with my vision and exponential possibilities. I also wanted to break away from the usual cycle of the West; work, retire and die. I didn’t want to be like so many others in the grave, who failed to make their dreams a reality. I wanted to live a more purposeful and influential life, that would deeply inspire my children and others around the world.
What was it specifically about Musanze, the ecological town in Rwanda, that encouraged you to set-up community there?
Mama Moon: I was encouraged to move to Musanze by its open spaces, its lush green environment, the diversity of the mountainous terrain, the temperate tropical highland climate, the small town sense of community, and the friendliness of its people.
However, the deciding factor had to do with the level of comfort I was afforded as a single woman of 65 years moving to a new country, not knowing the language or understanding the culture. During my visit in February 2020, I toured Musanze and also the beautiful Twin Lakes area where I visited a village in the mountains overlooking Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo. While there, I met a young man named Fraterne Manishimwe. We made a point of staying in touch and when I returned to the U.S., Fraterne was the perfect ambassador for his country!
During months of conversations, he was able to help me understand the benefits that I would enjoy by moving to Musanze . As a successful entrepreneur and business owner of FRAMA Adventures, an eco-lodge and camping facility at Twin Lakes, Fraterne also explained how being located in the heart of the tourism district, could make Musanze a great place to start a business. From the moment I arrived, they have been family and have been the example of Rwandan hospitality and a source of guidance and assistance in my relocation and adaptation to Rwanda culture.
Colin: Videography is a passion of mine and shooting outdoor videos led me to Musanze and its huge lakes and very affordable housing with a lifestyle suitable for a retiree. It’s a great place to invest and build legacies for your progeny. The environment reminds me of my village in Tobago. This is the Africa I want to live in.
Lady Visionary: In my childhood years, I would be at the beach every weekend in Jamaica. Rwanda is land locked, so does not have those features. However, I visited the lakes in the region, lake ruhondo and burera. I love the water and I could see that the place was captivating but lacks investment and infrastructure. Myself and my husband thought of setting up a business that many people could visit and enjoy. We are currently working on a luxury glampsite where visitors can enjoy fresh foods from the gardens, an organic animal farm and immerse themselves in African scenic nature.
Have you noticed many Diasporans traveling to Rwanda? What are the reasons behind this, in your view?
Mama Moon: I have noticed that there has been a steady influx of Diasporans visiting and relocating to Rwanda. I believe some people are looking for a place that is safe, clean and less expensive to live. I believe that others are looking for a new lease on life – a different perspective and still others are just wanting to see for themselves what life has to offer outside of what they have been told about Africa by the western media.
Colin: Diasporans coming to Rwanda or anywhere in Africa, in my view, is the inevitability of our ancestors returning home. We carry their spirits. It had to happen. It seems, I was among the first four returnees in 2019. Today there are about 200 of us residing in Kigali and 5 in Musanze. Folks are opening small businesses and buying properties.
Lady Visionary: Rwanda is getting a lot of exposure in recent years with the ‘Visit Rwanda’ campaign and the signed partnership between Rwanda and Arsenal football team.
I have seen a lot more diaporans chosing to visit Rwanda, relocate and also invest here. Many have reaced out to me via email and my YouTube channel. They want to know how to explore Rwanda as a country, where they can relocate to and build a lasting generational legacy. Rwanda is a stable country with good governance with visible outcomes. It is attracting attention that will help in developing the country and change its story. Many of us want to be a part of that journey and have positioned ourselves accordingly.
Lastly, where can we find you and keep updated on your journey?
You can find Mama Moon at Culture Cafe Coffee, (RN4, Ruhengeri-Gisenyi Road), where she provides lovingly made food and warm space for the Musanze community. Lady Visionary documents her journey on her YouTube Channel, Lady Visionary showing the diaspora that “they can choose a better quality of life in Africa, that can be both rewarding and fulfilling”. Colin’s goal is to have as many diasporas visit, integrate or return to Rwanda as Ghana. He operates a tour company and an Airbnb in Musanze that employs two full time locals.
He shares these final words: “Africa is calling her children home and our consciousness is rising”.