Pangolin’s Burrows, Kigali, Rwanda: My Encounter with Aileen Lyatuu, CEO

Pangolin’s Burrows, Kigali, Rwanda: My Encounter with  Aileen Lyatuu, CEO


Pangolins dig deep burrows for sleeping and nesting that contain circular chambers. Large chambers have been discovered in terrestrial pangolin burrows that are big enough for a human to crawl inside and stand up. One such chamber is found in a bar and grill in Kigali. It was a privilege to catch up with Aileen Lyatuu for just over an hour on Thursday 6 January 2022, at her business premises, St 544 Hs 3 Kigali in the Gasabo District, Kacyiru Sector, along King Faisal Road.

The interview took place at the premises shortly after the lunch break and lasted about 75 minutes. It was a one-to-one in-depth interview revolving around six key themes – background statement, motivations, challenges, personal achievements, and future plans.

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The Pangolin’s Burrows Story

Pangolin’s Burrows started out as the CEO’s husband’s passion as a Bar for working class gents, but later became a bar & grill as the woman came fully onboard, armed with a degree in Hospitality Management. Since then, the food provision and/ or inclusion transformed into the cash cow (primary income generator) for the business. It even became more of a revenue earner following the introduction of the lunch-time buffet in January 2017. Starting out with a staff strength of 4 in 2015, the business has reached a strength of thirty full-time staff by December 2021. The target customer base remains the middle/ working class in the surrounding area around the Embassy of Angola and the famous King Faisal Hospital in the Kyacyiru area of Kigali.

Q1. Owner Background (nationality, education, family etc.)

Aileen Lyatuu is originally from Tanzania. She moved to Rwanda in 2011 on completion of her studies at the Makerere University Uganda with an MSc. Tourism and Hospitality Management in 2012. Prior to that she had obtained a First degree in Sociology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi in 2008.

Aileen is married to a Rwandan and has three kids aged 11, 8 and 2 years. She met her husband in Kenya in 2005, and after a series of long-term relations (following his relocation back home to Rwanda in 2006, they got married in 2010.

Motivations (why you chose to start up a bar & grill in Kigali, your main product and target customers etc.)

Burrows started out about six years ago in 2015. Interestingly, Aileen had to draw upon her education as a master’s degree holder in Tourism and Hospitality Management to introduce food into the product range of Burrows. It does not end there as she also opened-up to the option of outdoor catering and food delivery to supplement the income from the limited seating capacity on-site.

Challenges (including start-up capital, government regulations)

Starting up in the sector is relatively easy in Rwanda compared to its EAC (East African Community/ Cooperation) siblings. This is unlike what may obtain in other sectors such as Agriculture where the intervention by the government is more pronounced. Needless to add that Burrow’s has been impacted by the short opening hours just like many other businesses in this sector, but has nonetheless, managed to remain afloat in spite of this.

Personal achievements

Burrows only recent celebrated its 6th Year Anniversary on 18 December 2021, bringing together its clientele to join in with the celebration. I witnessed the vent which was dispatched like some read carpet premiere. Aileen mentions that this was the first time in six years that this event was celebrated. With free food and drinks, it is evident that Burrows seems to understand the significance of social capital and social responsibility. 

Promos – An observation

This wasn’t part of the interview schedule but arose following a few observations. So, I posed the question – I have just noticed this T-shirt on your staff with the label ‘Kenya Cane.’ Kindly tell me a bit more its significance?

To this she responds, Yes, the ‘Kenya Cane,’ is part of the East African Breweries portfolio and the T-shirts were donated as a gift. It is the same as the other items of branded clothing such as the Guinness T-Shirts and Hoodies. It also represents appreciation for our custom of the products of these brewers. Besides representatives of these firms were also invited to, and attended our successful sixth year Anniversary event recently.

Future Plans – still burrowing?

Aileen is quite keen on scaling-up the operations of Burrows both on-site and off-site. In terms of the former, she plans to add an additional structure to the current building in order to avail more seating area for the growing clientele. In the case of the latter, a location near the border with the latest member of the EAC (East African Community/ Cooperation), i.e., DRC, is on the cards. As she points out the border town of Gisenyi is close to the extrovert and fun-loving people of the DRC and would surely be worth tapping into.

Closing thoughts

Unlike my previous case profiles, which ranged from Heaven Kigali to Alhaji’s Wife in Accra, Ghana, the Burrows story is somewhat different as it embellishes the 3Cs of our time – i.e., Covid-19, Capital requirements and Consumer price rises. Just to add another “C” (cleanliness) to the equation. I haven’t really seen a place as serene and clean as Burrows – the cleanliness and the Covid-19 protocols including heat checks and sanitising stations, makes it somewhere to feel at least. So here you go Pangolins – next stop, Burrows!


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