Tribert Ayabatwa

Set aside time to be alone and sit in silence, it is the best thing you can do for your overall productivity.


Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa isn’t your typical entrepreneur. Building a business for the sole purpose of supporting local communities and creating sustainable employment, he is now one of the wealthiest people in Africa. Coming from humble beginnings, Tribert had a very difficult upbringing and fought hard to build the empire he has today. Despite the obvious uphill battle ahead of him, he went on to obtain a certificate as a desk clerk and typist, and studied French, the official language of the country, to expand his opportunities. These skills helped him gain confidence in his abilities, and as a result, he started working at a petroleum storage company which allowed him to showcase his managerial skills for the first time.

Now a seasoned entrepreneur, his company, Global Tobacco Supply Ltd employs over 26,000 individuals globally. Tribert is now setting his sights on giving back to his community. Through community development projects and his own Foundation, he is deeply connected to charitable giving, and hopes to empower people through these initiatives.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

The idea was born out of a need. For the people of Tanzania, being able to take control of their resources and exports was a major source of power. Profit aside, this venture was a major benefit to the employees at our company and being able to provide sustainable income for them was a major driver for me.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There is no typical day when you are responsible for over 26,000 employees. Depending on the day, I might be pulled in one of several directions. From logistics to management and budgeting, I go where ever I am needed. I make it productive by keeping lists and calendars ahead of time—usually on a Sunday night before the work week begins.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I work very closely with the people I trust to bring new ideas to life. Bringing ideas to life in a company like Global Tobacco Supply Ltd. is all about teamwork. It is crucial to get feedback from everyone, no matter what department they work in, as they all have an understanding of how to improve efficiency and drive innovation.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that excites me is an increased interest in social activism. From supporting education to building social housing, this generation has a sense of social and economic responsibility that previous generations did not. That brings me great relief.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I never allow work to come home with me. When I am at home, both in the morning and evening, I respect the sanctity of my space. Having a space to relax in is crucially important for my productivity as an entrepreneur, primarily because it allows me to refresh my mind and memory for the day ahead.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself to be less impatient. When I was younger, I had a great deal of impatience when it came to achieving my goals, and all it did was cause me grief. I worked very hard and worried; the hard work helped me achieve my goals, the worrying did not.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I believe that a company’s goal should be to better the lives of local communities by creating sustainable employment and positively impacting communities. I have spoken to other entrepreneurs who believe this to be untrue, as they focus solely on increased profit—a model I believe to be outdated.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

As a briefly mentioned above, I always seek the advice and opinions of those working for my company. Of course, with over 26,000 global employees, this isn’t always possible. However, employee feedback is crucial in making major decisions as everyone is able to see something that you are not.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I believe that Global Tobacco Supply Ltd. has grown as big as it has because of the way we treat and pay our employees. I think that most companies envision their workers as subordinates, cutting wages and jobs for the interest of the company. Myself, I consider my employees to be a crucial part of my success and am happy to support them in any way that I can.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I was younger and working for another company, my biggest failure was a lack of communication with my team. Through a series of conflicts and failed objectives, I realized that I need to set the tone for the company culture and have done so ever since. I encourage employees to come to me directly if they have issues, and always encourage people to be open about their mistakes and be unafraid to ask questions.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would love to start a book-sharing app that allowed people to create their own reading clubs. As an entrepreneur, I have benefited deeply from not only reading books, but sharing them with others. Speaking about a book that you have just read with others is an extremely enriching experience and I would love to be able to foster this community.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I spent was on an external charger for my phone. As a business professional, I spend a lot of time outside of the office and on my phone, which means that my battery doesn’t last throughout the day. An external charger has given me the capability of working throughout a day without worrying about my phone dying.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

The software that helps me be productive is ToDoist. This app allows me to organize, plan, and collaborate on tasks and projects. Being able to get all of my ideas and plans into an application accessible through my phone ensures that I never forget anything—a huge benefit to my productivity.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend that everyone reads “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. Explaining that people won’t buy into an idea or product until they understand the ‘why’ behind it, Simon Sinek shows that the idea is what drives success, not the pursuit of profit. As someone whose goal was to build up local communities, this book resonated deeply with me.

What is your favorite quote?

“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” By Ella Fitzgerald

Key Learnings:

  • Hire people you trust, and always ask their opinions on what you should do next
  • Set aside time to be along and sit in silence, it is the best thing you can do for your overall productivity
  • Put your head down and be patient, everything will happen in due time if you work hard