Meet Olivier Sanderse, our new contract volunteer-expert


We are delighted to welcome Olivier Sanderse to our ranks; he joins Ariane's team in Rwanda as contract volunteer and expert and will spend the next few months working to support Rwandan businesses with in-depth business expertise.

Who are you and how did you end up in Rwanda?

My wife and I have been living in Kigali since April '22. She works for a US company active in the food industry and got the opportunity to set up a new branch in Rwanda to serve the local market. It immediately spoke to me and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands to immerse myself in such a different culture.

Having studied commercial engineering, masters in marketing and an executive MBA, I ended up building a career at Nokia. When we decided to move to Rwanda for a while, I took a sabbatical and made the choice to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Cultural Sciences at the Open University.

How did you join Exchange and what will your role be?

I noticed during my bachelor's in Rwanda that I still had some time to spare, and since I have always been keen on volunteering, I started looking for a good way to use that time. Through Google, I came across Exchange and was soon able to start working with Ariane to look for new programmes for 2023 and carry out two feasibility studies for Rwandan dairy companies. Currently, I work closely with coach Paul Vanhengel to develop a growth programme for these dairies. I also work together with growth programme coach Wouter Janssens. I provide local support for a project for a large waste management company and work in the field to clearly establish and help realise the growth programmes.

What about Rwanda appeals to you?

At first, of course, it was an unknown country, but over the past few months I have been able to discover a lot. It is a very beautiful country, both in terms of its nature and its people. Rwandans are very nice, open people once you get to know them. It is also very safe and easy to live there.

For you, what is the most enjoyable aspect of working for Exchange?

There are several: it is a unique way to get to know another business culture, and helping local companies grow gives me a lot of energy. But for me, everything starts and ends with people, which is why working with both local people and Exchange staff is a highlight. Getting to know the Rwandan entrepreneurs and building a relationship of trust is what fascinates me the most. When both we and the companies we assist are completely transparent, we can help turn a growth plan into more employment and more income for the local people.

Let’s finish on a personal note: do you have any hobbies or passions outside work?

Undoubtedly squash. The first thing I looked up was whether there were squash courts in Rwanda and fortunately there were 2 in Kigali itself. This way I can build a network as well. We also support the local youth programme. A little while ago, for instance, I contacted Squash Flanders; thanks to them I arrived at the squash club with a whole suitcase full of T-shirts, backpacks and rackets, which the children were very happy with. Besides playing squash, I often play tennis with my wife and try to keep fit by jogging, although that is no easy matter in 'the land of a thousand hills'. I am also taking Kinyarwanda lessons to at least build a basic level of knowledge of the local language.