Dr. Florence Nisabwe is a visionary woman born and bred in Burundi. She’s a citizen of the world, a social entrepreneur, and an expert on sustainable development strategies, project management, and good governance. At the heart of her work is her passion for empowering women through Fondation Lance d’Afrique Burundi to embrace their talents and have the confidence to dream bigger, work harder, and achieve outstanding success. In doing this, Dr. Nisabwe has made a global impact. She shared this impact as well as her belief that we are the architects of our lives in this Sheen Magazine exclusive.

Who is Dr. Florence Nisabwe?

I earned a degree in communication development and a master’s degree in Urban Economics. I hold a PhD in Entrepreneurship and Development Economics. I’m also trained in social entrepreneurship, gender, public speaking, development studies, monitoring, and evaluation. I designed and led research projects in multiple African counties that focused on issues related to gender mainstreaming, entrepreneurship, and human rights from an economic perspective.  

I’m the Founder and Executive Director of the Fondation Lance d’Afrique Burundi (FLAB), which focuses on empowering African women from the grassroots level to high-profile females through social entrepreneurship. We work with rural and marginalized women and their urban counterparts occupying management positions. The focus of my work is in implementing hands-on approaches to help women help themselves through social entrepreneurship and leadership projects.

I’m the author and co-author of eight books. As a public speaker, I share insights on leadership and development from a female entrepreneur’s perspective. I’m passionate about sustainable social entrepreneurship and I believe that the best way to achieve this is by inspiring community development and uplifting women to achieve economic empowerment.

What’s important to you?  

The greatest thing in my life is to bring a smile to the faces of others. To do this requires discipline, setting attainable goals, and giving myself the means to achieve those goals. I must focus, work smarter, be patient, and be positive in every situation.

Since childhood, I’ve always wanted to help people improve their socio-economic conditions. I learned that giving my time and financial resources yields great benefits and brings both personal and professional blessings. I derive so much joy and unmatched satisfaction when I help people, especially women and girls, in dire need.

How does it feel to be the Ambassador of Burundi?

Advocating for women’s economic empowerment must be a global action and, in every country, there must be people to carry this assignment. Serving as the Ambassador of Burundi and advocating for those in need is a cornerstone of my work. The task isn’t easy, but it’s one I’m passionate about. It’s my mission for my voice to be heard around the world and to connect with mankind to help the underserved in Burundi. I stand to assist the marginalized, bring an end to their fear, and break the cycle of poverty. I work with women on recognizing their potential, boosting their self-esteem, and embracing their confidence to embark on a journey of success.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to mirror your success?

Passion, determination, and persistence are everything. Hard work is the foundation of all success. We must push beyond the boundaries we set for ourselves. Our comfort zones prevent us from facing the challenges that help us grow, expand our efforts, and embrace new achievements. We must go above our daily limits and build our capacities.

We’re all meant to shine. Our self-confidence determines the depth and size of our goals, energy and determination determine how we achieve them, and persistence allows us to overcome any obstacles in our way. You must commit yourself to mastering your chosen field and engaging in lifelong personal improvement. Minimize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. Develop courage, persistence, and unshakeable self-confidence; become unstoppable.

What is economic empowerment?

It’s the ability to make and act on decisions that involve the control and allocation of financial resources. Empowerment can be defined in many ways. It means accepting people on the outside into the decision-making process. This puts emphasis on participating in political structures and formal decision-making. In the economic sphere, it puts emphasis on earning an income that gives individuals power over their lives. People are empowered when they assess the opportunities available to them without limitations such as in education, profession, and lifestyle. Being entitled to make your own decisions creates a sense of empowerment.

Empowerment is also about raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy, and training. Economic empowerment is about equipping and allowing people to make life-determining decisions as they face different issues in society.

How has the pandemic impacted you in Burundi?  

I’m based in South Africa with my family and, one day before my flight home from Burundi, the government closed the borders. After three weeks, a fire burned inside me that pushed me to explore opportunities in Burundi and how I could better use my time. I needed the lockdown to learn more about the national environment, the way of doing business, and the mindset of the people around me.

I had to be resilient, adopt a positive attitude, and not allow the circumstances stop me from my purpose. I refused to let the lockdown or fear control my emotions. Mastering how to manage the unexpected and remaining positive were essential. Financially, it was difficult to continue my projects. International donors and financial partners couldn’t support nonprofit organizations like mine. It wasn’t easy but I accepted the challenge and moved forward powerfully and positively.

What sense of purpose have you drawn from your culture and community? 

A sense of purpose has always guided my decisions, influenced my behavior, shaped my goals, and given me direction and meaning. My sense of purpose is connected to my vocation, it rests in my responsibilities to my family and friends. My purpose shifts me and changes my life in response to evolving priorities and fluctuations of my experiences.

Leave us with some encouraging words.

Happiness and joy are central to life. We must show up for ourselves and put ourselves first. I invite my brothers and sisters to wake up each day with a new idea to change the world. We must nourish our hearts and souls with positive thoughts. We must dream big, keep our standards high, and not let anyone drain our energy or kill our dreams. We must follow our hearts and our spirits.

How can we reach you?

Visit Dr. Florence Nisabwe’s official website and the official Fondation Lance d’Afrique Burundi website.


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All images by Stefan Coetzee