The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in partnership with auditing firm KPMG and Rwanda Today (a publication of the Nation Media Group) has rewarded the top 100 fastest growing SMEs in the year 2012.
At the ceremony held on Friday, the overall winner was Bugepro, a retail small company which focuses on tobacco and operates in Eastern Province, while 1st and 2nd runner-ups were respectively Canopies International ltd (construction and telecommunication) and Hotpoint ltd (retail). Following were Nyakayaga Traders ltd, Agrotech, Confianza sarl, Kalisimbi Business partners, Horizon Express, Sciex ltd and Baltion Rwanda ltd.
There were also awards for specific categories, where the IT champion of the year was Aftec ltd. Agrotech won the agribusiness champion of the year, Hotel Chez Lando was crowned in hospitality, and the health champion was Sunshine Pharmacy. Special attention went to young and women entrepreneurs, won respectively by Khalfan Twagiramutara (Access ltd) and Scovia Mutoni (Nyakayaga Traders ltd).
According to RDB's acting CEO Claire AKamanzi, SMEs create wealth and jobs, therefore ensuring the country's future. There are 123,000 SMEs countrywide, which represent 98% of the country's businesses.
"But the money they produce and contribute to the country's development is still low. We believe that with adequate support they can grow much bigger and faster, therefore boosting their contribution to the country's economy," she said.
Akamanzi pointed out that through the awards, small companies get roles models and learn from each other. "Even those who were still small realize that they can aim higher, do better and improve their business. Such awards create business confidence, and help them improve their businesses," she explained.
The Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean-Philibert Nsengimana, challenged the winners to expand and encouraged them to further innovate. "There is a limit to where success can take you, but innovation can take you wherever you want to be in your businesses."
He also requested each of the award winners to help at least one start-up. "You are the key to success and development of this country."
The SME owners were also advised to try to win the national and regional market competition. "If you don't win over your customers, it doesn't matter whatever competition you win," stressed Anne Githau, Nation Media group's marketing director. "You have to always think about how you please your customers. You have to make it easy for your customers to do business with you."
She added that seeking ways of satisfying customers is what will help Rwanda's SMEs to compete in the region. She further said that one cannot be independent without growing your own wealth. "It's inacceptable for all of us to live on this poorest continent while it's endowed with natural resources. You have the responsibility to build your country's development and expand to the whole of the continent. It's possible with your commitment. We no longer want to say 'reduce poverty' but rather we prefer saying 'create wealth'," Gitau remarked.
According to Bugepro's director Eliphaz Nkundababo, the secret of business success lies in customer outreach strategies. "We don't wait for our customers to come to us, but we rather reach them wherever they are. We distribute goods to sites where our clients are located and that helps us win the market over our competitors."
The criteria considered to find the top 100 awards winners are: financial stability; money invested and profitability; growth rate and the number of the employees.