Donatile Nibagwire ventured into the export market in 2001, a move she has never regretted to date. The CEO of Floris Rwanda – a horticulture export firm – has weathered many storms but still she keeps up with the demands of the job and is reaping big in a rather male dominated field. The once small time enterprise is now a multimillion venture operating from Kigali’s suburb of Kiyovu. The only genocide survivor in her family (Nibagwire lost both her parents and all her siblings in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis), the mother of three is keen to build an enterprise that will live long after she’s gone. Save for the contract farmers she works with, more than 80 percent of her employees are below the age of 35 and female.
“I was strategic in selecting my employees. It is not by accident that I have young people working for me. I aim to show these young people that if I can do it, they too can do it. Today it is me and it will be them in my position tomorrow. That is how life is.” She said with a smile. Her spirit unbroken, heart filled with hope for the future, Nibagwire is truly a woman determined to impact and transform the lives of Rwanda’s future generation.
In 2016 Nibagwire got a break she so desperately needed to scale the heights and expand her business. This came in the form of a grant matching facility from BRD under the Export Growth Fund (EGF). When BRD approached Nibagwire to convince her to sign up to the facility, she –perhaps like many other entrepreneurs- thought it was too good to be true hence it took three separate meetings with BRD staff for her to eventually decide to give it a chance. “I had been used to working hard, facing challenges head-on and doing my best to keep the company afloat. No one had ever approached me before to offer me a grant – money that I would not have to pay back. It was unbelievable and this is why it took quite some time for them to convince me,”Nibagwire explained.
Thanks to the grant, she has been able to penetrate new international markets and vary her export commodities. While she began her export business by exporting only green bananas, today she exports chillies, avocados, bananas, eggplant, tree tomatoes, marakuja, cassava and sorghum flour. She is also currently pursing certification from Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) for Floris’ new product: chilli oil.
Donatile currently exports to Belgium and Dubai. On a weekly basis, she exports up to 4 tonnes of Rwandan fruit and vegetables via Brussels airlines. Her Dubai market is still unstable as she is faced with a shortage of avocados -which is the market’s niche import product. Although she signed a contract with her Dubai importer last year in September, she has only been able to export only twice due to the shortage.
One of the main challenges that Rwandan exporters face is limited financing to obtain product certification and engage in marketing activities such as attending trade fairs. Marketing is important for every exporter to enhance their products’ visibility and attract potential importers. Trade fairs are a particularly important marketing tool because they create an opportunity for exporters and importers to interact. During trade fairs exporters get to understand the needs and requirements of importers. With the help of the grant matching facility, Nibagwire has attended numerous trade fairs where she has established credible business partnerships.
This year, Floris Rwanda goes online! Nibagwire has realized the potential inherent in e-commerce and she plans to seriously tap into the online opportunities to grow her business. Nibagwire is optimistic that she will see her revenues soar through the website as more people will know about her business and will actually be able to make orders through the website. She has already engaged a professional web developer to design the company’s website with the support of the matching grant facility. “The matching grant facility is very helpful to exporters because it reduces the financial burden of marketing,” Nibwagire said.
The future looks brighter for Floris Rwanda than ever. It is not just the European market that is interesting for Nibagwire but she also sees a lot of potential in the African markets. Soon she intends to venture into Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville markets.
N.B: This is a sponsored Article by BRD