The freight forwarding business is well known for having no rest periods. As economies become stronger and more competitive, importers and exporters increase their volumes and time of trade.
Currently, all borders in the East African region operate for 24 hours a day to facilitate the increasing amount of intraregional trade.
As the business becomes more competitive, the freight forwarders services become more critical in the safe movement of exports and imports.
Acting as an intermediary between clients and transportation services, freight forwarders utilise relationships with carriers of all types, from air and trucking companies to rail and ocean cargo transporters.
Important as well, they also act as intermediaries between traders and taxing authorities.
There are 106 freight and forwarding companies operating in Rwanda, with 40 per cent of the workforce being women.
One of the companies, Intra Cargo Ltd, is owned by27 year old Josephine Nyebaza.
Intra Cargo has offices at all Rwandan borders and conducts business day and night.
Business Times contacted Nyebaza to find out her motivation for starting up a business in a male-dominated field.
“After graduation I was supported by my family because they understand my love for doing business. They inspired me with their trust, faith and encouragement and when I decided to set up a freight forwarding company, nobody ever said to me that it was going to be a failure,” Nyebaza narrated.
After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the School of Finance and Banking (SFB), Kigali, she immediately enrolled for the East African Freight Forwarding Customs Practicing Certificate. The course allowed her to execute business anywhere within the region.
After her studies, Nyebaza got a number of casual jobs but she felt unfulfilled.
She later decided to set up her own freight and forwarding company.
“University students should always think of being innovative and determined. Nothing is impossible if you really want it. Hard work and determination pay,”
That is her advice to young people, particularly students at university.
“The knowledge they gain in any subject will be of merit in their careers, even if it’s not directly related to their profession. So they should make use of it.”
Nyebaza has worked with a lot of people, who are in their first corporate job after university, and according to her observation, they usually expect to be nurtured onto the job so that they can fit in a company, something she has also experienced before.
“The most common expectation I’ve heard from first time employees is that someone will manage their careers for them, and they look to their manager and leaders in their group to do so,” she says, adding that: “This is not what should be done. They should be self-driven, motivated and confident in order to earn trust and confidence from their employees who realise their worth to the company.”
Nyebaza registered her company, Intra Cargo, in 2007 and started work in 2008. Despite going through several challenging phases, the company is now established as one of the most consistent forwarders in Rwanda and the region.
In recognition of her work, she was elected by her colleagues as the second Vice President of the Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association (ADR), something she recognises as one of her greatest achievements.
“There are a few things I had to put together in order to apply for my clearing and forwarding company to be licensed. Freight forwarding has really changed my life. The exposure and the people I meet every single day have strengthened me.”
While doing her work, she deals with much older and more experienced people than she is. This has boosted her confidence and knowledge of doing business.
“I also act as a trainer to my fellow colleagues at the ADR’ training centre that offers professional course on clearing, forwarding and customs services.”
But Nyebaza’s life is not all about work. She spends her free time watching movies, browsing the internet, watching her favourite football club Manchester United, or reading novels from her favourite author, John Grisham.
On the business environment in the country, Nyebaza says that Rwanda is full of untapped potential and resources.
For investors, Rwanda is now the best place to invest in. Our Government through RDB has made it easier, you can open up a business in 24 hours,” she says.
For business enthusiasts, Nyebaza advises that it is important to always first assess personal capabilities and characteristics.
“You must know why are you going into business, and what areas need improvement. And what resources are available to you,” she underscores.
Nyebaza concludes that when a business aspirant takes full control of their vision and are courageous to make personal innovations; their businesses will surely work out fine.