Carmen launches new training institute for Burundi women

September 2013

Former UCB postgraduate student Carmen Nibigira is helping to rebuild her war-ravaged home in Burundi by launching the country’s first higher education institute for women.

Carmen studied a Tourism Destination Management MA from 2006-2008, starting her course just as Burundi emerged from 12 years of civil war. An estimated 300,000 people were killed during the ethnic violence and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes and became refugees.

Carmen wanted to use the tourism skills she developed in Birmingham to contribute towards the reconstruction of her country’s shattered economy. She saw no reason why Burundi could not develop a destination tourism industry in the manner of Kenya and Tanzania, which share borders with the post-conflict country.

In particular, Carmen wanted to give marginalised women an opportunity to gain education and training with a view to taking up positions in Burundi’s embryonic tourism trade. The new recruits will be trained at the Akilah Institute for Women in Bujumbura, the capital.

I am very passionate about education for women in Africa, specifically in our East African region.

Carmen Nibigira

She has a wealth of experience, having helped to market the landlocked country at international travel fairs, run tour operations in Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya, and managed a major hotel in Tanzania. She has also worked at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland as an academic assistant.

Carmen is now studying a PhD in parks, recreation and tourism management at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA with a view to bolstering human resource development in Burundi’s tourism sector.

It is set to be busy year for the UCB alumni as she prepares for the opening of Burundi’s Akilah Institute, of which she is a member of the board of directors.

Akilah launched its first campus in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, in 2010. Significantly, everyone in the inaugural graduating class of 2012 found a job in East Africa or the Middle East.

The Burundi campus is due to open in January 2014 when the first intake will enrol for a three-year business diploma, specialising in either entrepreneurship or hospitality management. The course emphasises experiential learning, leadership development and entrepreneurial skills.

Carmen pays tribute to the legacy of her studies at UCB and says the experience helped to shape her professional outlook.

My MA allowed me to be where I am today. It opened my eyes to new perspectives and widened my horizons, both academically and professionally. Our MA project in Portugal provided my first insight into the working world of consultancy, liaising with different stakeholders in the public and private sectors, NGOs and civil societies. Since I graduated, I have worked on different projects related to conservation, environment, marketing, planning and capacity building. Contacts and friends I made at UCB are still important. I have worked with two of my former classmates on two projects relating to the tourism marketing of Burundi at the ITB tourism convention in Berlin. Seeking their advice and wisdom is vital for the work I am doing. I visited UCB last year to present my work in Burundi to the MA students and have kept contact with two of my professors.

Carmen Nibigira

For more information about the Akilah Institute, go to