The importance of giving back

Alumni feature: Bobson Rugambwa (MSIT ’18)

Hannah Diorio-Toth

Nov 21, 2022

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  • Learn more about the tradition of Giving CMU Day at Carnegie Mellon
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Giving CMU Day is now a well-known annual event at CMU-Africa that includes games, friendly competition, and the celebration of philanthropy. For five years, the student body has worked together to raise money for fellowship support to help future Tartans receive the world-class education of CMU-Africa. The CMU-Africa community can routinely even boast that 100% of students participate in Giving CMU Day by making a donation.

But when Bobson Rugambwa (MSIT '18) was a student, Giving CMU Day at CMU-Africa was only an idea. Although the event had been held on the Pittsburgh campus for several years, it was not a familiar experience for students in Kigali. In 2017, Rugambwa and his fellow Student Guild members launched the Carnegie Mellon University tradition at CMU-Africa in hopes of fostering the spirit of giving back to the university community. Working closely with the College of Engineering’s advancement team, the day has now become a permanent staple at CMU-Africa.

"Most CMU-Africa students are getting scholarships in one shape or form," says Rugambwa of how he and his fellow organizers explained the importance of the day to other students. "Let’s help someone else, however small it may be. Let’s try to keep this thing going so that we are helping someone else benefit from what we’ve benefited from."

Now an alumnus, Rugambwa stays involved in the CMU-Africa community and continues to adopt this philanthropic mindset as a dedicated annual donor. An avid entrepreneur, he is the chief executive officer of MVend Limited. The start-up company, located in Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, is using technology to extend the services of banks, insurance companies, and pension funds to the underserved. Through MVend Limited, Rugambwa hopes to increase the number of banked people in Africa. He also hopes that the company will increase the level of savings in African economies, significantly reducing the interest rates for those who want to borrow.

There is no gift that is ever too small.

Bobson Rugambwa, (MSIT '18)

One of the reasons why Rugambwa stays involved with his alma mater is because of the fond memories he has of his time at CMU-Africa. He looks forward to other students being able to experience life at Carnegie Mellon. During his time as a student, he was heavily involved in student activities as class president, part of the Toastmasters Club, and founding member of the Software Engineering Club and the Energy and Embedded Systems Club.

Rugambwa chose CMU-Africa because of the opportunity to foster his entrepreneurial interests while earning his master's degree. He was able to choose courses around the topic and also get mentorship from faculty, specifically Michel Bézy. At the time, Bézy served as a distinguished service professor and associate director of CMU-Africa. Rugambwa smiles as he describes participating in Bézy’s mock investor pitch, modeled after the popular American-based television show, "Shark Tank." "It gives you a very good taste of [the real world]," he says.

This year on Giving CMU Day, Rugambwa encourages his fellow alumni, current students, and friends of CMU-Africa to give back. With all of CMU-Africa students receiving some form of financial support, fellowship programs like the Innovators Forward Fellowship Fund (IFFF) are extremely important.

"It doesn't matter how small it is, just give it forward. Many small pieces come together to eventually create something that is bigger," says Rugambwa. "There is no gift that is ever too small."

Giving CMU Day logo

Celebrate Giving CMU Day 2022

This year’s Giving CMU Day is coming up on November 29, 2022. Help CMU-Africa make it the most successful event yet by making a donation to the Innovators Forward Fellowship Fund (IFFF). By making a gift to CMU-Africa, you are providing direct support to the next generation of African tech leaders and innovators. Your gift will fund tuition for aspiring engineers, allowing them to access an education that they may not be able to afford otherwise.