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Afrolago: A quest for inclusion and participation of people with disability


When Patrick Afrika made shoes and sold them to his high school classmates and patrons, he had no idea he would turn it into a business or how many lives he would touch and change.

Patrika Afrika was raised with a business-minded mindset. His father taught him how to make shoes at a young age. In 2013, he would begin selling them to his high school classmates and patrons. His small business grew until he decided to make it official. He established his own company, Afrolago.

Afrolago is a Rwandan brand that was founded in 2020 with the goal of bringing high-quality fashion products to the market. They are well-known in Rwanda for their distinctive and reasonably priced leather shoes.

People were laid off left and right during 2020, a terrible year for most businesses due to the pandemic, and some startups simply could not sustain themselves and closed their doors.

But it was an opportunity for Patrick Afrika to actually establish his business. His strategy was to establish it primarily as a digital business. They primarily engaged in digital sales and online marketing.

They advertised their products on social media as well as on their website. They were able to sustain and grow their business with this strategy.

Afrika was no ordinary entrepreneur; at the heart of his enterprise was a desire to make a difference in the lives of young people, particularly those who were disabled.

The company’s mission is to provide opportunities and inspire young people, particularly disabled people. They provide training programs that aim to provide them with practical skills that will allow them to work in the fashion industry.

Afrika identified that people with disabilities face unique challenges that the majority of people are unaware of.

“I realized that people with disabilities face a lot of challenges while seeking jobs and opportunities,” he said, explaining how he came up with the idea to work with them, “I wanted to help them because it was my way of giving back to my community.”

Afrika met Iradukunda Ian in this manner. Before joining the Afrolago team, Iradukunda was a young isolated man. He can’t speak or hear, but that hasn’t stopped him from having dreams.

Patrick Afrika [on the left] together with Iradukunda Ian [on the right]

From a young age, he desired to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the country and his family. He was unable to do so because most employers would not hire someone who could not speak or listen.

“I used to always be at home lonely, unable to get any job,” he explained.

But, thanks to Afrolago, he was able to disprove those who believe that people with disabilities cannot work. He stepped up, went through training, and proved to everyone that he has what it takes.

“I was trained for what I do, primarily fashion and leather shoemaking,” he explained. “I’ve gained confidence in myself and learned the skills required to pursue it as a career.”

Iradukunda believes that people with disabilities can achieve whatever they set their minds to. He is a living proof of this.

Iradukunda believes took part in the training program that Afrolago offers people with disabilities

“People with disabilities should gain confidence in themselves and stop staying at home,” he stated, “They can do it!”

Patrick Afrika attests to this as well. He believes that people have an unfair bias that people with disabilities cannot work, which he believes is completely false. He stated that while working with disabled people, he discovered that they can focus and use their senses effectively.

“While working with people with disabilities, I discovered that they are capable and have the strength to do anything because we [his team] use our hands in our work most of the time, so as long as their hands function, they can implement the work,” he said, “They are intensely focused.”

Afrolago specializes in leather shoes and leather products

“We primarily work with people who have hearing and speaking disabilities, and they stay focused on what they’re doing, allowing them to do what everyone else can,” he added.

He believes that it is every entrepreneur’s responsibility to empower society. Afrolago is not only empowering society; it is also breaking down biases, stereotypes, and norms. It is bringing about change in a community that is in desperate need of it.

“As entrepreneurs, we are here to solve the problems that our society is experiencing. They [Entrepreneurs] have to approach people and see what problems they have and fix them,” he said, adding, “I advise them to reach out to society to find out what those problems are so that they can find solutions.”

Afrolago is demonstrating that disability is not synonymous with inability; shouldn’t we all?

Afrolago makes and sells shoes, belts, boots, customized bags, sandals and wallets
Patrick Afrika believes every entrepreneur should make an impact into their communities
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