For Rwanda’s development, the emergence of a viable private sector that can take over as the principle growth engine of the economy is absolutely key.
Not only will such a development be conducive for economic growth, it will also ensure the emergence of a vibrant middle class of entrepreneurs, which will help develop and embed the principles of democracy.
Although foreign direct investment will be encouraged, a local-based business class remains a crucial component of development.
In an attempt to expound on Private Sector Federation’s journey towards this already set vision, Sunday Times’ Richard Nkubito had an exclusive interview with Mr Antoine Manzi, Director of Entrepreneurship development and Business growth in Private Sector Federation (PSF); below are the excerpts.
Qn. Will you briefly introduce yourself to the Sunday Times’ readers?
A: My names are Antoine Manzi; I’m the Director of Entrepreneurship development and Business growth in Private Sector Federation (PSF). Entrepreneurship is the first of the five (5) pillars of Private Sector Federation and has many programs on business growth and entrepreneurship development.
Qn. What’s your take on V 2020?
A: Honestly, the vision is a good initiative. The government of Rwanda took a responsible initiative. I’m very optimistic that if we all worked hard we would achieve a great percentage of what has been set in vision 2020.
We may not attain 100% due to some factors which were not considered such as the recent global economic crisis, it has just come and it will truly affect us in all sector of economic development. Our capacity and attitudes towards change are yet other setbacks in achieving 100% of vision 2020.
Qn. How does your office translate the vision in its day to day undertakings?
A: We are actually part of the vision 2020.The mission and vision of vision 2020 underline that Private Sector is the engine of 2020 vision. We have a strategic plan 2009-2013 which is in line with vision 2020.
Our strategic plan has five key pillars and Entrepreneurship development is the first pillar.
Businesses in Rwanda are currently faced with a lot of challenges such as lack of capacity, capital, no access to loans due to high interest rates and lack of collaterals, lack of sufficient electricity and water among others.
PSF carried out business census in 2007 and found out that there are 72,000 businesses in Rwanda and 90% are (MSMEs) Micro Medium Small Enterprises yet 70% of these lack capacity, most of them have not attended primary school.
It is against this that we have set up capacity building programs through Business Development Services (BDS) which have been established in all provinces of the country.
Qn. One of the key objectives of the vision is for Rwanda to become a medium economy by 2020. What is your office’s role in achieving the noble objective?
Private Sector Federation has a number of initiatives to achieve this noble objective;
PSF offers grants of Rwf 7.5M to businesses which intend to expand. About 13 projects have received this grant.
PSF also has Business Advisory Services. There are sensitization campaigns especially in rural areas. Business net working also enables business people to exchange experience, products, challenges and solutions locally, regionally and internationally.
They go to countries such as India, China and in trade fairs like Juakali and Sabasaba in Tanzania.
The business Plan Competition started in 2005 to help young graduates create employment both for themselves and for the community. The best business plans are funded and up to 835 jobs have been created. We hope to create 500 jobs every year starting with 2009.
An appropriate Technology Demonstration center is under way. We have a memorandum of understanding with the National Research Demonstration Center of India which help us develop ours in two months period with over 35 machines for agro processing and product diversification.
Qn. Any challenges so far?
A: Challenges are there. The prime challenge is funding. Lack of business ethics and awareness among the Rwandans is yet another challenge. Attitudes to change and fear for risk; I’m an economist and to me, the higher the risk, the higher the returns.
Low levels of education as already mentioned are another huge stumbling block.
Collapse of businesses due to capacity, infrastructure and tax penalties; However, we have found a lasting solution to this where have introduced the resident accountant to cater for problems of tax penalties. We have already agreed with Rwanda Revenue Authority for training and certification of these resident accountants in their home districts.
Qn. What is your message to the entire community as regards the vision?
A: People have to work hard, be ambitious, honest and focused in all they do.
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