Rwandan firms win big at inaugural women entrepreneurship challenge

FinDev Canada Managing Director, Paul Lamontagne (centre) congratulates winners of the Invest2impact awards. On the left is Blandine Umiziranenge of Kosmotive and Yvette Ishimwe of Iriba were the best in their respective categories.

Two Rwandan entrepreneurs have been named best in their respective categories during the inaugural women entrepreneurship competition, 2X Invest2Impact, that brought together several entrepreneurs from five African countries.

The duo is among the 100 women entrepreneurs selected from the five countries as winners in four categories and will form the first cohort of the 2Xconnect, an online community dedicated to African women entrepreneurs.

 

The announcement was made in Kigali on the sidelines of the Global Gender Summit 2019 that ended Tuesday.

 

The challenge brought together women entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

 

Yvette Ishimwe of Iriba Water Group and Blandine Umuziranenge were announced overall winners in the Social Innovation and Women Empowerment categories, respectively.

Founded by Ishimwe, Iriba is a social enterprise which offers authentic innovative solutions to scarcity of clean water in Rwanda, while Umuziranenge’s Kosmotive works to improve reproductive, maternal and child health.

Kosmotive was awarded $25,000 while Iriba got a prize of $20,000.

Overall, there were four categories and besides the two won by Rwandans, others were youth empowerment and entrepreneurship and climate change and environment which were both won by Kenyan companies.

The overall Invest2Impact 100 companies comprise of 31 Kenyans, 26 Tanzanians, 15 Rwandans, 10 Ugandans, and 18 Ethiopians.

The challenge was organised by the Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) of Canada, the United Kingdom, France and the United States, in partnership with MasterCard Foundation.

It is designed to support collaboration, leadership, and the development of key business skills to impact communities.

As more participants join, it will increasingly be a place to share, support, learn, and celebrate the power of East African women business leaders who are positively impacting their communities, countries, and continent.

They comprise of 31 Kenyans, 26 Tanzanians, 15 Rwandans, 10 Ugandans, and 18 Ethiopians.

The initiative was launched to provide these entrepreneurs with networking opportunities, mentorship, business development services, visibility and access to funding, to enable their businesses to thrive and grow.

“All of them were good businesses. When choosing the best, we were looking at businesses that can sustain themselves and grow, those that understand their customers, financials, and opportunities for business growth,” Elise Milenge, the coordinator and instructor of the event in Rwanda told The New Times at the occasion.

About the two Rwandan companies

Kosmotive

The company was recognised for “real empowerment and participation of women in the boardroom”.

The Kosmos Magazine is a print and online periodical and App that offers interesting child and maternal health and lifestyle information to young women and mothers in Rwanda. 

It provides parenting advice for a wide net of readership, including fathers, young people and anyone interested in the wellbeing of families.

The organization is committed to employing youth with no access to tertiary education.

Given that its service delivery requires unskilled labor, Crystal Africa Cleaning Services Limited developed a training program that the youth undertake, before placement on client sites.

Asked by The New Times about how she feels about winning the prize, the founder, Blandine Umuziranenge said;

"I received this prize because of the reproductive information I share with the Rwandan girls and women on reproductive system; the money will help me expand my business until eliminating school drop outs in Rwanda."

Iriba

The firm was rewarded in recognition of the use of technology or innovative approaches to improve lives and support healthy communities.

Iriba Water Group Ltd’s three-fold business model's target is to avail safe drinking water to people while also fighting against climate change.

This has been achieved by eradicating usage of single-use plastic bottles through the supply of IRIBA reusable water containers for customers to refill water and hence avoid single-use plastic water bottles.

The solar-powered water ATMs are placed in different areas of the city, particularly very congested areas such as markets, car parking stations, hospitals, etc.

Thanks to this refilling process, safe, clean drinking
water becomes very affordable particularly for low-income earners who were otherwise unable to afford clean drinking water with existing bottled water solutions.

 “I feel proud that I won this prize; I started in 2017 but today about 35,000 people get clean water so I believe with this money I will be able to supply at least 7,000 people with clean water,” said Ishimwe, founder and Managing director of Iriba.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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