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Dutch Thijs runs a potato chip factory in Rwanda

Thijs Boer, a Dutch entrepreneur, has set up a successful chip factory, Winnaz, in Rwanda. Winnaz produces two million bags of chips annually, largely sold in Rwanda, with plans to expand to neighboring countries. Boer, who graduated in agricultural economics from Wageningen University, helps local potato farmers by giving them advice and training to increase the quality and yield of their harvests.

Jean Damascene, one of the potato farmers who supplies Winnaz, praises Boer for his high standards and fair payment. Winnaz, which started ten years ago with just two hundred bags of chips per week, is now the market leader in Rwanda. Boer, who once interviewed 250 farmers about their production methods, wrote a business plan with the help of the Dutch embassy and started his company with investments from family and friends.

Despite competition from an EU-subsidized Rwandan factory, Winnaz survived thanks to Boer’s personal involvement and dedication. He trained his employees, all Rwandans, and personally ran the factory for two years. Boer emphasizes the importance of knowledge of the local market and involvement in the production process.

Winnaz promotes its chips as trendy and has a prominent presence at sporting and music events in Rwanda, aimed at the growing middle class.