8 March 2016

Africa: Global Women's Summit Opens in Kigali

Global Women's Summit opens in Kigali today as part of celebrations to mark the International Women's Day, with a focus on personal development, leadership, entrepreneurial solutions and motivational tools for career and business growth.

Speaking at a news conference in Kigali yesterday, Mireille Karera, the event director at Global Women's Summit, said bringing the meet to Rwanda is due to the country's efforts in women empowerment.

The summit is organised under the theme, "Towards Vision 2020: Women Leading Innovative Transformation."

"Rwanda has been ahead in putting gender parity policies into practice. Looking at the 63 per cent of women representation in Parliament, and a big number of women in the Cabinet and big government positions, among other gender records. We thought that, these and few other women empowerment policies would be great example for participants to learn from and make gender parity a reality in their respective nations," Karera said.

She said today's summit seeks to strengthen women and families through education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship in order to eradicate illiteracy, poverty and hunger in every nation.

About 350 women from various countries across the world are expected to attend the summit in Kigali, hosted by KORA Associates, New Faces New Voices Rwanda Chapter, and IFC World Bank Group.

Karera, who is also the managing director of KORA Associates, a consulting and coaching company based in Dubai, UAE, said they want to deal with the dynamics of each country to empower women.

For Rwanda, we want to see more women have access to finance, becoming more innovative and taking on the driving seat of the private sector," she said.

Addressing financial inclusion

Limited access to finance and inadequate business skills are among the challenges hindering the progress of women in business in Rwanda, according to issues highlighted by the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs.

Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the central bank vice governor who doubles as the chairperson of New Faces New Voices Rwanda Chapter, said there is need for building the capacity of women entrepreneurs in terms of skills and knowledge needed for them to thrive in business.

"With the availability of financial inclusion policies in Rwanda, there we need to capacitate women, with business competencies and required skills for comprehensive empowerment. This should be the focus of our discussion and I am sure, this can benefit women to successfully operate businesses," she said.

Nsanzabaganwa said New Faces New Voices is working on a women investment fund of $20 million, which will begin operations in the near future-to exclusively support women initiatives.

Asked whether the fund will be an avenue to the establishment of an all-women's bank in Rwanda, Denise Omany, board member of the New Face New Voices Rwanda chapter, said it is one of the issues on agenda.

"This fund is what New Faces New Voices will do. Ethiopia has been the leading example with a women's bank, Tanzania has a similar financial women's institution. We are working to see how we can move ahead in that line," Omany said.

"We want to help women access finance where it is. One of the big challenges has been collateral for women to access finance, we want to help in redesigning available modules for women to access finance, it is going to happen."

Tumi Frazier, a renowned South African leadership and change expert, said there is a need for governments to encourage value-added chain.

"Every woman can capitalise on their gifts and small enterprises to thrive formally. Why not change that small tomato shop to producing tomato sauce? It's just a matter of changing approach and capitalising on the available policies to formalise their operation," she said.

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