The New Times (Kigali)

21 December 2012

Rwanda: Tigo to Foster Women Entrepreneurship

Rwandan women entrepreneurs will be among 4,000 people to benefit from a scheme set up by Millicom International Cellular, (Tigo), to foster women entrepreneurship in the fast growing African mobile financial services industry as well as enhancing household income.

The initiative, which is a partnership between Tigo, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims at supporting and training the beneficiaries to set up businesses as Tigo Mobile Money agents enhance financial inclusion.

Experts believe the scheme that also targets women from Tanzania and Ghana, will help alleviate poverty in Africa.

"This initiative enables our women agents to access additional working capital to support more transactions on Tigo Cash which means more people can be financially included," Tongai Muramba, head of Tigocash at Tigo Rwanda told Business Times

Muramba added that the partnership will also enable Tigo to recruit more women to become Tigo Cash agents and thereby give them a chance to increase their incomes.

"For the Tigo Cash business, this is a great way to increase the level of liquidity in our agent network, even as we increase the size of the agent network," he said.

"All these will enable us to better serve our customers and build a microfinance institution service that is the pride of Rwanda," he added.

The initiative will be launched in the country next year with hope that many women will be able to start businesses to boost their incomes.

"We welcome any woman interested in participating in this programme," Muramba said.

Hans-Holger Albrecht, Global President and CEO of Millicom said that the initiative will deliver financial literacy and business development training for the women's entrepreneurship to benefit all local communities.

"I am proud that we at Millicom can be part of financial inclusion in Africa," he said in a statement.

Experts are optimistic that such initiatives will help the continent increase the level of financial inclusion on the continent. Statistics indicate that sub-Saharan Africa has the largest unbanked population.

Statistics from World Bank indicate that only 12 percent of Africa's population has access to any form of formalised banking while globally, an estimated 2.5 billion working-age adults have no access to formalised financial services.

Accordingly, the 18 month project will be working with over 4,000 women entrepreneurs with women involved having access to 12-month working capital loans for their mobile money businesses distributed by local MFI partners through Millicom's mobile financial services platform.

USAID Chief Innovation Officer, Maura O'Neill said that with the right business training and working capital available, women entrepreneurs will benefit from the continent's growing mobile operator's value chain.

Indeed according to a GSMA study, a significant gender-gap exists in the adoption of mobile services in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are 23 percent less likely to own a mobile device.

"Our opportunity to economically empower women through powerful, wide-reaching mobile technologies is more achievable now than ever before," she said

It is hoped that having more women agents will increase the number of women who benefit from mobile services.

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