The New Times (Kigali)

24 August 2014

Rwanda: Enterprising Genocide Survivors Bag Rwf5 Million Unsecured Loans

Five young enterprising graduate Genocide survivors have won a total of Rwf5 million unsecured loans from Duterimbere microfinance after pitching the best business ideas during an entreneurship competition organised by Survivors Fund (Surf) and the Association of Student Survivors of Genocide (Aerg).

Japhet Ntakirutimana, who presented a business plan on furniture making and interior design, was the overall winner. The first runners-up was Faina Musanabera. She pitched a business idea on a restaurant with takeaway services.

Other winners are Joselyne Mukankusi, Jean Bosco Mutungana Muvara and Marie Josée Mutoni. Of the 10 finalists six were girls, with three of them emerging among the top five.

Over 150 contenders participated in the competition and training. The contestants pitched business plans ranging from poultry farming to film production, carpentry workshop, catering services and packaging projects.

The competition was the climax of a four-month entrepreneurship and work readiness (Akazi Kanoze) training conducted under the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme.

"I chose this business idea after realising that many of the workers in Gakiriro, Gisozi sector, including bank employees, were going without lunch due to tight work schedules. With my catering services I hope to serve them in their workplace and offer them good, secure and pocket-friendly catering services, depending on their tastes and income," Musanabera told the panel composed of business experts and entrepreneurs.

Ntakirutimana said Gasanze, an emerging centre in Nduba Sector, Gasabo District where he hopes to set up the furniture and interior design enterprise, is undergoing rapid development, with many of the residents building new houses. "I am sure they need furniture for their homes and commercial buildings," he said. "I hope to create jobs for more than three workers to be able to satisfy customer needs... I am targeting an annual income of over Rwf10 million when the project starts."

The judges considered the feasibility of projects, profitability, innovation, market research and potential to generate employment.

Kelsey Finnegan, a Survivors Fund project officer, said the training aims to equip the participants to run viable and profitable enterprises. "We collaborate with financial institutions to make more young graduates access affordable loans to develop their business ideas."

Jean de Dieu Mirindi, the Aerg national co-ordinator, said the biggest hurdle facing Genocide survivor students is lack of capital to start businesses. He added that the winners would be supported for three months to refine their projects.

The youth entrepreneurship training programme has benefitted 450 young Genocide survivors, 270 of whom are girls, since its inception in 2012. It aims at reducing youth unemployment, particularly among university graduates and technical school leavers.

"By providing entrepreneurship training and work readiness skills, youth are empowered to access quality employment and start entrepreneurial ventures," Mirindi said.

Those who are not supported to start new businesses will be linked with internships in prominent companies and NGOs.

The effort is a major lift to the government's drive to have knowledgeable business operators and ensure sustainable entrepreneurship and economic growth.

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