27 April 2017

Rwanda: Mastercard U.S.$1 Million Grant Set to Ignite Business Growth in Rwanda

In support of Rwanda's Sustainable Development Goals, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growthhas confirmed its commitment to a grant of up to USD$1 million over three years to support the growth of small business owners in Rwanda.

According to a press statement by Mastercard, to ensure that the first phase of the roll out of the grant is successful, Mastercard has partnered with theAfrican Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), locally known as Inkomoko. The team develops and grooms entrepreneurs in industries such as technology, agriculture and energy - three of East Africa's biggest and fastest growing sectors, and priorities in Rwanda.

Announced during at the 2016 World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF Africa) in Kigali, Rwanda, Mastercard committed to supporting Rwanda's vision of financially empowering its citizens, with the grant established to support achieving this goal. The commitment is in line with driving poverty out of Rwanda through job creation, ensuring gender equality through equal access to opportunities, and delivering decent work prospects which will enable economic growth.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are key drivers of the local economy - currently making up 97.8 percent of the private sector in the country.Inkomoko's one-year programme removes the barriers local entrepreneurs face in the areas of skills development, networks, and financing, through providing mentoring, technical support, capacity building, and direct access to affordable capital. What makes the partnership between Mastercard and Inkomokouniqueis the support of both Rwandan nationals as well as some of the 160,000 refugees currently living in Rwanda.

In collaboration with the United Nations Agency on Refugees (UNHCR), the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) and MastercardCenter for Inclusive Growth, Inkomokowill roll out aprogramme aimed at fostering the social and economic independence of refugees in Rwanda.With a large population of refugees, the role of private and public partnerships remains crucial to the inclusive growth and development of all those displaced. Mastercard, together with the African

Entrepreneur Collective,has committed to assisting entrepreneurs in Rwanda regardless of their circumstances, a vision shared and driven by the Rwandan government. "Connecting entrepreneurs, especially women and refugees, to the networks that power the modern world - like financial services - unlocks their economic potential and accelerates a cycle of equitable and sustainable economic growth," says Shamina Singh, President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

The Inkomoko entrepreneurship programme aims to restore the dignity of refugees living in Rwanda by empowering these small business owners with vital support to grow their businesses. The programmewill work with 4,000 refugees in Rwandaover the next three years.

"The intention is to connectrefugees with the tools and skills necessary to enable them to become self-sufficient and independent entrepreneurs to improve their own livelihoods, create jobs for others in their communities, and contribute to Rwanda's larger economic development. Rwanda's refugee camps and host communities are places of vibrant social and economic activity with bustling markets, shops, restaurants, and industries," says Julienne Oyler, Executive Director of African Entrepreneur Collective.

Supporting and developing entrepreneurs in these areas will have tremendous impact on the communities themselves and the country at large.Rwandahas become a bustling centre of commerce in Africa, and by implementing programmes that broadly target high potential local entrepreneurs, broad-based economic growth can be advanced by equipping the country's next generation of business owners with the right tools to hone their financial literacy - the foundation of financial inclusion and growth.

In this way, the support provided as part of the grant not only falls in with the country's Vision 2020 strategy to create a knowledge-based, cashless economy with 90 percent financial inclusion, it also contributes to Rwanda meeting its Sustainable Development Goals, most notably in terms of eradicating poverty and driving gender equality through the empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Facilitating inclusive growth is an important way to build social and economic development, and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth remains committed to working with partners in both the public and private spheres to drive that development.

"Microentrepreneurs drive the local economy, and through our partnership with African Entrepreneur Collective, we look forward to empowering them with the tools and training to grow their businesses and advance the lives of their families and communities," concludes Singh.

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