Reconciliation and Economic Progress

  • Religion
  • 2002

The Christian-led national reconciliation taking place in the east African nation of Rwanda after its horrendous genocide some years earlier has attracted many generous Christian donors, including Dale Dawson. A serial entrepreneur looking for his next challenge, Dawson was visited by an Anglican bishop from Rwanda raising donations for his war-torn country. The cleric challenged him. “Rwanda doesn’t have a vibrant economy,” said Bishop John Rucyahana, donations will help only fleetingly. “You’re a businessman. Why don’t you build businesses in Rwanda?”

Captivated by the bishop’s charge, Dawson investigated a Christian overseas-development nonprofit called Opportunity International. The investment banker in him was quickly impressed by Opportunity’s carefully developed microlending model. Soon Dawson was not only making his own multimillion dollar donations but also serving as a spokesman and fundraiser for the group. Among other projects, Dawson eventually spearheaded the creation of a popular bank that quickly became Rwanda’s most important financial institution (see 2007 entry in our companion list of Overseas achievements).

As his interest in faith-based solutions in Africa grew, Dawson first joined a few other donors in building schools in Rwanda for genocide orphans and other needy children. Their church-linked group Bridge2Rwanda kept creating schools. And then it established a scholars program that paid for promising Rwandans to attend colleges abroad. Soon, Dawson was spending half of his time in the country.

Dawson and colleagues subsequently expanded Bridge2Rwanda into economic development projects. These included a coffee exporter, an egg farm, a shoe distributor, a feed mill, and an entity providing financial services to foreign companies operating in the country. A think tank to educate people across Africa on the merits of market enterprise was launched by B2R in 2010.

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