First Lady Jeannette Kagame makes case for Rwandan businesswomen

First Lady, Jeannette Kagame with some of the members of the Rwandan Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs (RCWE), the largest and only umbrella organisation of women entrepreneurs in the country. Courtesy.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame has highlighted the fact that there is a need to support women in business, saying their contribution to the development of the country in the last 25 years has been unprecedented.

She also indicated that the past twenty five years since the Genocide against the Tutsi, women have played a crucial role in promoting their personal growth and the growth of their families.

“Women also played a core role in the rebuilding of the nation, promoting the unity of Rwandans as well as contributing to the security and development in general,” Mrs. Kagame noted.

Rwanda has a significant number of women entrepreneurs, who now play a major role in the development of the country especially through their active involvement in the country’s private sector.

“As figures show, women have a role to play to increase the economic growth and development of the country. Their businesses contribute 30 per cent to the GDP,” she said.

She pointed out that, according to research, women in the private sector across the world have seven things in common. Among these, having a resolute but well defined goal, instilling self-belief, accepting failure enthusiastically, and reducing any association with negative people.

Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) (R) right chats with Mireille Ineza Karera, a motivational speaker and the Group Chief Executive Officer at KORA Coaching Group. Courtesy.

Initiating your own businesses, building networks, and utilising time judiciously, she said, are other values.

“Based on the confidence you have, I have no doubt that with these values, we shall see some of the names from the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda on the list of prominent business women in the world,” she noted.

This, she explained, is also reflected in the Capacity Assessment Report which was conducted in 2018, highlighting the major reasons many women start their own business.

Mrs. Kagame said that it was exciting that 86 per cent of women started their businesses in order to become self reliant, while another 83 per cent did it out of passion and believed it was their calling to do so.

On the other hand, 45 per cent admitted that their male counterparts supported their idea of starting their own businesses.

But the First Lady told the women that running their private businesses should not compromise other responsibilities: The parental roles they hold, promoting family and equally building the country.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame addresses women entrepreneurs at a gala dinner organised by the Rwandan Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs (RCWE) in Kigali on Friday night. The gala dinner was organised under the theme, Lighting the Future for Women Entrepreneurs. Courtesy.

She argued that it was similarly important for women to learn how to collaborate in their ecosystem.

Currently, women head 42 per cent of enterprises in Rwanda which accounts for about 30 per cent of GDP.

According to Jeanne Francoise Mubirigi, the Chairperson of the Rwandan Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, 98 per cent of women businesses are informal.

“This is because women don't have access to sufficient capital, they are limited with high taxes at some point, and many others lack enough capacity to run businesses,” she said.

What the organisation is doing is to address the exact problems that businesswomen face in Africa including empowering them through advocacy to access capital, mentorship and facilitating their career development.

Indeed data collected by the World Bank in ten African countries, including Rwanda, indicates that on average, male-owned enterprises have six times more capital than female-owned enterprises.

The fact that women have less access to assets affects their ability to obtain medium-sized loans and, in turn, impacts the growth of their enterprises.

The Rwanda Chamber of Women Entreprenuers is currently comprised of 5,000 businesswomen working in diverse economic sectors including tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and information and communication technologies, among others.

Chantal Nyirandama, one of the members and a businesswoman, who runs Nice Garden Training Centre, told Sunday Times that women have made major steps but that there are challenges to deal with going forward.

“Previously women running businesses wasn’t ideal in the society. That has changed considerably. What we need now is to empower those in informal sectors through training and market access because that is the biggest challenge,” she said.

The World Bank suggests giving women more control over assets through, for example, the granting of joint property rights (as is the case in Rwanda) or by eliminating the need for collateral can go along in allowing women to do business.

In Rwanda, more women currently own more land (24 per cent) than their male (14 per cent) counterparts, according to the recent Gender Equality index, and land is considered the main asset for production and investment.

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