For many people, the freight forwarding business is associated with men and limited time to rest. As the economy becomes stronger and more competitive, importers and exporters have increased their volumes and time of trade. Indeed, many sector players are always on their toes, literally, as they try to cope with the 24-hour operations at most of the major border posts in the region to facilitate the increasing amount of intra-regional trade.
Some women ‘daredevils’ have infiltrated this hitherto largely male domain. One such woman is 30-year-old Josephine Nyebaza. The owner and CEO of Intra Cargo, a clearing and forwarding firm with offices at all Rwandan border posts, says her firm conducts business day and night.
Why clearing and forwarding?
What would have driven the young graduate to start up a business in a male-dominated field? This is one of the questions Ntebaza had to answer regularly during the initial stages of her business, she says.
The graduate of business administration from the School of Finance and Banking (SFB) in Kigali, says she enrolled for the East African Freight Forwarding Customs Practicing Certificate after her graduation to sharpen her skills after ‘realising’ that that was her calling. She says the certificate allows her to execute business anywhere in the region.
With the certificate in hand, Nyebaza says she got many temporary jobs in clearing and forwarding, but felt unsatisfied. That was to be the push into self-employment as she later set up her own freight and forwarding company, Intra Cargo.
“My family supported me all the way because they understand my love for doing business, particularly in this line of trade,” Nyebaza says. She adds that their trust, faith and encouragement strengthened her resolve to concentrate on the freight forwarding business.
Nyebaza says in 2007, she registered her company and started work the following year.
Making the bar
She says despite going through several challenges when she was starting out, she persevered, adding that Intra Cargo is now one of the consistent forwarders in Rwanda and across the region.
Her hard work has already paid off as she is now the second vice-president of the Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association (ADR), what she says is one of her greatest achievements.
Nyebaza is also the chairperson of the regional Curriculum Implimentation Committee (CIC), a body charged with capacity building of clearing and forwarding agents in the East African Community bloc.
She says the business has given her a lot of exposure and widened her network, thanks to the “people I meet every day, who have strengthened me as an individual and businesswoman”.
Nyebaza adds that dealing with older and more experienced people has boosted her confidence and widened her knowledge of doing business.
Nyebaza says Rwanda has a lot of untapped potential and resources, which she says young people should exploit to start their own enterprises instead of complaining about unemployment all the time.
“Rwanda is now the best place to invest in presently. Government through the Rwanda Development Board has made it easier for us to do business. One can open up a business in at least 24 hours,” she notes.
She says the clearing business has been increasing over the years. She notes that while her firm used to close by 5.00pm in 2011, now they work to past mid-night “because customers keep streaming in”.
“Work is also a lot easier compared to three years ago, following the introduction of the electronic single window system, which replaced the paper-based method of operation,” she explains.
Nyebaza points out that the introduction of the single customs territory, where goods are cleared at the first entry port, like Mombasa or Dar es Salaam, has reduced inconveniences since goods go straight to the client.
She says business became more competitive overtime, calling for one to be very creative and hardworking to stay on top and attract more clients.
Nyebaza notes that the fact that of the 150 freight and forwarding companies in Rwanda, only 40 per cent of the workforce are women makes it more of a man’s world with its attendant challenges. She however says she has been able to make her mark on the sector because of the networking skills and go-getter spirit.
Nyebaza advises anyone who wants to venture into business to always first assess their personal capabilities.
“You must know why you are going into business, what skills you need and what resources are available to you,” she counsels.
Nyebaza says when an entrepreneur takes full control of their vision and are courageous to make personal innovations, they will make it in business.
She urges university students and youth to be innovative, noting that nothing is impossible if you put your heart to it, adding that hard work and determination pay.
She advises students to make good use of the knowledge acquired at school, arguing that it grounds firms in their chosen career paths.
Nyebaza encourages young graduates to be self-driven, but not to wait for others to instruct them on what to do or how to do it.
She says new employees should be self-driven, passionate and confident to earn trust and confidence of their employers and colleagues at work and peers.
Work without play…
Nyebaza’s life is not all about work. She says she spends her free time watching movies, browsing the Internet in search of knowledge and better working techniques, besides watching her favourite football club Manchester United when it is playing and reading novels; her favourite author is John Grisham.Follow https://twitter.com/@IvanNgoboka