Who We Are


African Entrepreneur Collective staff, board, and volunteers are all in.  Similar to our entrepreneurs, we work hard to find data-driven solutions to our daily work, while keeping our eye on the big picture. Our team represents cultures and perspectives from across East Africa and the US, and most importantly, is connected to a shared set of values.


“All the problems on the Continent have solutions that already exist on the Continent.” A Continents people are its greatest resource. AEC’s entrepreneurs are an integral part to the phenomenon of Africa Rising.

“We reach beyond what we think is possible.” We set ambitious goals, and we push our entrepreneurs and our staff to achieve these goals. Together, we do the impossible.

“We are committed to continuous learning and growing.” We recognize our own limitations, challenge our entrepreneurs, staff, and entrepreneurs to improve, and seek out opportunities to share our learnings and commit to hearing from others.

“The brave rise together.”  Movements build, and communities change when people come together through collective intention.

“We eat goat.”  We are together, we celebrate our success. We take time to appreciate one another and hold each other up in hard times.


African Entrepreneur Collective was founded in summer 2012 by social entrepreneurs Julienne Oyler and Sara Leedom, whose experience living and working in Africa showed them that supporting young entrepreneurs was the most sustainable way to move African nations out of poverty. The leadership guides more than 130 staff in 7 offices across Rwanda and Kenya.

Julienne Oyler is AEC’s founder who brings almost 20 years experience working in education and international development. Julienne was previously the Director of Development at College Track, a national after-school program in the US, and has held leadership and consulting positions at African Leadership Academy, Capital Partners for Education, and Yale. She attended University of Cape Town and has a BA in African History from Georgetown University, and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. She is a 2015 Echoing Green Fellow.

Sara Leedom is AEC’s co-founder and previously served as the Managing Director of AEC’s Rwanda affiliate. Sara has 20+ years of experience growing and managing social impact organizations, including as a Shell Foundation consultant to IntelleGrow, Executive Director of the Level Playing Field Institute, and as a development consultant for NGOs in San Francisco. She has a BA in from Mary Washington College, and an MBA from Oxford’s Said Business School. Sara was the co-chair of the Oxford Business Network for Africa, and a 2015 Echoing Green Fellow.

Nathalie Niyonzima is Managing Director of AEC’s Rwanda affiliate, Nathalie manages the operations of Inkomoko, leveraging years of experience in administration and finance working with international NGOs, including Help a Child Rwanda, FEWS NET (USAID Project) and Vision for a Nation Foundation. She holds a BBA in accounting from the University of Rwanda and is a CPA.

Lydia Irambona leads all of AEC’s refugee programming across East Africa from AEC’s Nairobi office. Lydia has 13 years of experience working with International NGOs in leadership roles at TechnoServe, World Jewish Relief, and CHF International. In addition to working with INGOs, Lydia worked with KPMG as Human Resource Consultant to develop and implement executive-level hiring. Lydia is a founder of AK’Iwacu, a social enterprise whose mission is to restore refugees ’dignity through economic empowerment and is a co-founder of Books & Brains, a children library. Lydia holds a Master’s in Intl Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid from and a Bachelor’s in Economics and Computer Sciences from Uganda Martyrs University.

Emmanuel Mugabo leads all company finances from Rwanda, with a deep background in financial management in Rwanda’s most notable companies. Emmanuel has served in different finance roles for over 10 years, including as an internal bank auditor and tax advisor in Rwanda Revenue Authority. He joined Crystal Ventures Ltd, the largest investment group in Rwanda, where he served as Investment Analyst, Financial Controller, Finance Director of Inyange Industries Ltd and Finance Director of NPD Ltd. Emmanuel has a Bachelor’s degree from Makerere University and ACCA. He is a member of the Institute of CPA Rwanda.

Claude Mazimpaka leads AEC’s lending program across East Africa. Prior, Claude worked as Head of credit and SME Business Coach in Business Professional Network (BPN) a Swiss NGO. Claude has 13 years in MFIs and commercial banks where he was a branch manager, operations manager and investment analyst at Kenya Commercial Bank Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. Claude has been a university lecturer and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Management. He is currently pursuing PhD in renewable energy economics.

Olive Ashimwe is the Director of Micro Business Solutions and Government Affairs, previously she served in various roles at Inkomoko as a Business Development Advisor, a Client Relations Manager and a Deputy Director for the refugee program. Olive has over 5 years’ progressive experience in business development, program implementation and research. Prior to joining Inkomoko, Olive worked at Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and the International Development Research Center. Olive holds a Master’s Degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Nairobi. She is a Member of African Association for Agricultural Economists (AAAE) and a founding member of Rwanda Organisation for Agribusiness Promotion.

Oggy Nduka is the Director of SME Growth at Inkomoko. He has 15 years of experience in sales, business management, business consulting and recruitment. He has experience working in the private sector and in development. He has a BSc in Economics from the University of Southampton. Prior to working at Inkomoko he was consulting at Whitten & Roy Partnership, across West and East Africa, working with NGOs and social enterprises to help facilitate business transformation.


Maria Palma
Board Chair
RRE Ventures

Francis Gatare
Rwanda Mines, Petroleum & Gas Board

Marion Ntiru
ELMA Philanthropies

Tom Ryan
Board Treasurer
Century Equity Partners

Marieve Uboi-Gauthier

Julienne Oyler
African Entrepreneur Collective

Julie Taft
Board Secretary
International Planned Parenthood Federation

Shipra Kayan

Lauren Rawlings

Sara Leedom
African Entrepreneur Collective


Michelle Brauner
Ares Management, LLC

Chris Durbin
Vestar Capital Partners

Carolyn Campbell
Emerging Capital Partners

Paul Kaboub
Old Ironsides Energy

Harrison Chilton
Advent International

Tom Ryan
Century Equity Partners

Alex Darden
EQT Partners

Irene Wang
Falcon Investments


Grace Mugabekazi
Ministry of Youth

Carmen Nibigira
Horwath HTL

Celestin Rwabukumba
Rwanda Stock Exchange

Denise Umunyana
Right Seat Ltd


This work is too hard to do alone. We at African Entrepreneur Collective are proud to partner with the following organizations who strengthen our reach, our impact, our understanding, and share our vision.