Josh Ruxin

Speech Topics

By insisting on corruption-free, results-oriented business principles, Josh worked to bring sustainable food, good health and real prosperity to the country’s rural villages, while Alissa put their foodie expertise to work by opening Equatorial Africa’s most unexpected new business: Heaven, a gourmet restaurant in the heart of darkness. By teaching Heaven’s kitchen staff how to help themselves, they created desperately needed jobs while teaching the survivors of the genocide how to work together again, and joyfully.

With a booming population and seven of the ten fastest growing economies on the planet, Africa presents staggering opportunities against a backdrop of glaring social challenges. The best way to help is to bring and create great businesses to the continent.

Ruxin has started, with his wife, one of the continent’s best restaurants and has a raft of other business enterprises in the retail, dairy and agriculture spaces. By recounting his successes and failures, he will show how competitiveness theory applies in Africa and what the world’s corporations and entrepreneurs should do about it.


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Josh Ruxin is the founder of Health Builders and with his wife, Alissa, owns Rwanda’s top restaurant, Heaven.  Working at the intersection of public health, business, and international development for 20 years, Josh has focused on comprehensive approaches to fighting poverty and creating prosperity, and has been instrumental in helping companies; governments and organizations understand how to increase their global impact.  He directed the Millennium Villages project in Rwanda which lifted a community of 25,000 people out of the ashes of genocide and transformed it into a thriving prosperous community.  He is also the author of A Thousand Hills to Heaven, a memoir of his experiences in Rwanda during the past decade, published by Little Brown and Company.

In the past ten years, Health Builders has helped nations secure over $1.8 billion for their national health strategies and programs.  In Rwanda, it has improved health management in 90 health facilities serving over 2 million people and constructed six new health facilities which serve over 120,000 people.

When Josh and his family moved to Rwanda in 2006, restaurants were sparse and there was not a world-class foodie destination in the country.  Together, they built Rwanda’s first purpose-built restaurant, recruited and trained vulnerable young adults to staff it, and attracted top chefs for training.

Josh is on faculty at Columbia University and is a frequent contributor to numerous publications, including The New York Times and Forbes. He has been featured on PBS Frontline, the Lehrer News Hour, CNN, BBC and numerous other media outlets.  He currently resides between the US and Rwanda with his wife, two daughters and son.  When in Rwanda he can frequently be found tweaking recipes in Heaven’s kitchen and serving unique drinks from behind the bar.


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