Women operating small-and-medium enterprises have a reason to smile as East African Development Bank in conjunction with East African Community prepares to disburse $250m (about Rwf165.2b) in December to support them.
Ruth Kihiu, the East African Women in Business co-ordinator, lauded the development, saying the money will close the funding gap regional business women have been experiencing for long. She noted that the money was targeted at women already in business and those who want to start enterprises with an aim of creating jobs for others.
Kihiu, however, told The New Times during the recently concluded East African Business Council meeting in Nairobi, that the money would only be accessed through selected banks in respective partner states.
According to Kihiu, the beneficiaries will get loans of between $5,000 (about Rwf3.3m) and $2m (about Rwf1.3b).
The total cash ($250m) will be shared among partner states equally. Kihiu also revealed that another $6.6m fund had been set aside as loan guarantee for business women borrowers.
“It was recommended that the EAC invests in financial inclusion of women-owned businesses and this is to be fast-tracked with the establishment of a regional financial facility at EADB,” she said.
Bella Rukwavu, the Agaseke Project co-ordinator, said the funds will open another window of opportunity for Rwanda women.
“This is an opportunity for women to improve their lives and those of their families, and contribute to the realisation of the second phase of the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy goals,” Rukwavu said. Women in Rwanda access credit through the “gender basket” which provides loans specifically to women.
As part of its efforts to empower women financially, the Rwanda National Women Council bought shares in Southern Province Investment Corporation, and also built a mushroom processing factory worth Rwf60m for a Kicukiro-based women co-operative.
According to a report by the International Finance Corporation done in 2008, Rwandan women head 42 per cent of all enterprises. They also comprise 58 per cent of enterprises in the informal sector, which accounts for 30 per cent of GDP, and they make a significant contribution to the country’s economy through their businesses across sectors.
Also, a 2002 study of women entrepreneurs found that the majority were engaged in the retail sector (82 per cent), with the rest focusing on services (17 per cent) and manufacturing (2 per cent). It showed that Rwandan women were increasingly branching out to non-traditional sectors such as information and communications technology (ICTs).