A good balance of different sized businesses and equally distributed wealth in the business sector is crucial to a thriving economy. As Business Partners International Rwanda Investment Company Limited (BPI Rwanda) celebrates 10 years of serving the needs of business owners, the company has significantly contributed to Rwanda’s small and medium enterprise ecosystem. According to Jean-Claude Mutajogire, Country Manager of BPI Rwanda, in the last decade alone their company has approved more than $33 million in business finance to Rwandan SMEs. “We are honored to have managed to position ourselves as a true value-adding financier to small and medium business owners in the country. Our company has not only approved more than US $33 million to 113 local businesses, but we have also succeeded in supporting the creation of over 8,858 jobs” he said. This is no small feat for a company, which only began operations in 2012. BPI Rwanda has been helping business owners overcome one of the most common entrepreneurial challenges facing SMEs today, in many African countries, access to finance. The company not only provides financing to viable businesses that may find it difficult to access capital from traditional financial institutions but sectoral technical expertise and mentorship as well. “Contrary to other bank loans I had tried before, BPI has been very flexible with me. In addition to helping us study our project, and financing it, they also work with us like true partners, following up and assisting all the way,” said Leandre Munyororo, Managing Director of ATECAR Garage, one of BPI clients. Such an approach to financing SMEs is the core of the BPI funding model across Africa and is premised on the belief that SMEs need more than just money to thrive. Mutajogire noted the company is committed to continue providing financing and technical assistance support to SMEs, so as to contribute towards increasing entrepreneurship in Rwanda, real wealth and job creation. BPI Rwanda provides business finance from Rwf 98 million to Rwf 980 million to established businesses. “Over the last 10 years BPI has managed to provide financial and Technical assistance to businesses in most sectors of the economy, especially those that have an impact on the economy through generating jobs and/or reducing imports and increasing exports, '' Mutajogire added. Technical Assistance is a programme that BPI Rwanda runs alongside the application of funding, through which the company builds the capacity of business owners and equips them with the skills needed to run a business successfully. So far, the company has offered Technical Assistance to 32 businesses at a cost of $677,824. Mutajogire attributes the above successes to the company’s impressive engagement with clients and their quick turnaround when reviewing applications. Unlike their male counterparts, women in business face a unique set of challenges. This ranges from lack of or limited funding opportunities to lack of collateral needed to support their funding applications. Numerous studies show that women-owned businesses struggle to raise capital for their businesses more than their male counterparts. “It is for this reason that we have put special measures in place to help women gain a foot forward. BPI Rwanda has paid special focus on women-led businesses and to date, the company has supported 37 businesses led by women to the tune of $10,264,970,” said Mark Paper, BPI Chief Executive Officer. Kanyi Feza Rongorongo, founder of Precious Dishes, said, “When I quit my job to start my business, I was just driven by passion. Challenges soon kicked in and Covid-19 made it worse. But being able to work with people (BPI) who are driven by growth rather than profit, was just what I needed to even believe in myself more.” Buoyed by its impressive track record, the company is optimistic about scaling its achievements in the next decade and beyond. Paper reassured that BPI Rwanda will continue to pay particular focus on gender-equality investment in support of Rwanda’s growing Woman Owned Enterprises and will continue to empower entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses that contribute to an inclusive and equitable society, through expanding on existing operations, increasing their footprint in Rwanda and doubling up efforts to place more finance in the hands of SMEs. BPI Rwanda also plans to align its operations with Rwanda’s Vision 2050 and the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy which are geared to enable Rwanda to become an upper middle-income country by 2035. Business Partners International is a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium owner-managed businesses in Rwanda and select African countries. The company actively supports entrepreneurial growth by providing financing from Rwf 100 Million to Rwf 1 Billion, specialist sectoral knowledge and added-value services for viable small and medium businesses. Since establishment, Business Partners International has provided business finance worth over $137,9 million in 580 transactions facilitating over 42 847 jobs.