RUHUNDA, RWANDA -- On Nov. 19 in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, community members, football fans and jubilant kids filled nearby streets and gathered at Trinity Pitch to watch two local teams play the first match the stadium has hosted— an event not possible in this dusty outpost until now. 

The match was organized by the local Coca-Cola bottler, Bralirwa to officially hand over the field (also known as Copa Coca-Cola Football Stadium) to the local community. The pitch, then only freshly planted with carpeted grass, hosted Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, alongside a cast of government, NGO and business leaders, to inaugurate the EKOCENTER site and surrounding area.

“The spectacle is not so much about the game," said Hussein Munyankusi, president of the Ruhunda Site Management team. "Everyone has come to celebrate the opening of this gleaming pitch. It is a signature of the transformation in our community. Now we can host cultural events, national functions, concerts and games, thanks to Coca-Cola EKOCENTER. Munyakusi is also the chief executive of the Ruhunda Community Cooperative, the legal entity that manages revenue generating from facilities in the EKOCENTER site and surrounding area.

The EKOCENTER kiosk is a solar-powered facility that aims to provide up to 25,000 local residents with access to a range of services, including wireless Internet, mobile charging, movie viewing, a restaurant and consumer goods such as Coca-Cola products. On the same site is the Ruhunda Health Centre, which offers improved medical services thanks to solar lighting, access to highly purified water, and business opportunities for women and youth. The site is also home to the only fully lit football field outside Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, which will help generate revenue to sustain the much-needed services EKOCENTER and other site facilities provide.

The EKOCENTER team, with the Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa Business Unit, partnered under the Copa Legacy "Leave Behind" program, which enables Coca-Cola to create or upgrade football pitches in communities where passion for the game is evident but necessary infrastructure is lacking. The program provides funds and expertise to build and support sporting facilities where local teams, next generation of champions, and football lovers can play football every day to make their dreams come true.

“The COPA Legacy Pitch is doubtlessly a demonstration of our holistic approach to building sustainable communities and plays to the convening platform of the EKOCENTER approach to the tri-sector business model. The football pitch can now be used to generate revenues for the local community from football clubs, artist performances or social events staged on the floodlight grounds,” said Bob Okello, group execution manager for EKOCENTER in Africa.

On opening day, Ruhunda Community FC ended up winning the friendly match 4-0. But it is the entire community of Ruhunda that will find winning moments every day from the opportunity and potential the EKOCENTER site and surrounding area brings.

Learn more about the Rwanda EKOCENTER and surrounding area here