17 April 2018

Rwanda: 23-Year-Old Entrepreneur Building Wide Reaching Tech Enterprise

A 23-year-old ICT graduate from University of Rwanda, Bovine Ishemaryayo, recently designed and launched a software dubbed 'e-Saving' that seeks to help vulnerable youth, especially those in rural areas to save in Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs).

The initiative targets youth from various vulnerable backgrounds that includes street children, teenage mothers, orphans, former night club dancers and jobless secondary school graduates.

Ishemaryayo, an orphan, graduated in software engineering in 2017 and within four months of his graduation, she had created eight saving groups comprising 200 youths from the Kigali city suburb of Kinyinya in Gasabo District.

The e-saving platform she developed is accessible to users both on feature phones (non-smart phones) and smart phones and are linked to SACCOs' systems.

The idea was derived from the igiceri savings programme which is under implementation in Gasabo District whereby households contribute Rwf100 a day.

"This has benefited both SACCOs whose clients are able to easily make deposits as well as saving groups as they can save via mobile phones and also withdraw using their phones," she said.

"We intend to cover all sectors of the country. To achieve this, I have so far created 45 ICT clubs in secondary schools. The saving groups had targets to save Rwf1.2 million every three months in SACCOs via e-saving. The plan was that once they meet their targets, they will decide on an income generating project. However, in the first three months the groups have exceeded the target and saved up to Rwf1.6 million," she said.

Ishemaryayo said she used the Kinyinya sector based savings group as a pilot phase. The group has plans that by May this year, the saving groups and all Kinyinya's SACCOs will have embraced the e-Savings platform.

"We have agreed with the head of SACCOs in Kinyinya sector to develop such an e-Banking system for use among their SACCOs. We have already developed it and in May the saving groups will embrace it. The saving groups and e-Saving system will also serve as a guarantee fund when members seek loans from SACCOs," she said.

To better help the youth members of the various groups raise funds to save, Ishemaryayo began by identifying skills among them that could earn them money.

They include tailoring, modeling, knitting, handcrafts and graphic design among others.

"One of the eight savings groups dubbed "Bandebereho" used their savings to open up a business whereby they are now providing online services such as "Irembo" services and retailing airtime. Another group of young mothers managed to buy two sewing machines from their savings. An entertainment group was able to buy two guitars consequently earning them more money," she said.

The e-Saving software, she said cost her firm an estimated Rwf 4.3M to set up which could go up to Rwf 5 Million depending on modifications to be made.

Local SACCOs seeking rights to use the system will be charged around Rwf4 million.

Software development career, getting awards

"My interest in developing ICT solutions began as part of group work with my colleagues at the university which I later transformed into a company starting with about Rwf25,000 capital saved from our monthly bursary allowance since 2016," Ishemaryayo said.

So far, the graduate has designed three ICT platforms including e-Vuze, a health facility management system that enables health centres, pharmacies, clinics and hospitals create connections with their patients, keep medical records of patients as well as receive payments.

She also developed e-Farming, which enables farmers access farming information on aspects such as market information and access to inputs.

To raise capital for her innovations, in 2016 she took part in an ICT competition which won her Rwf 200,000 which went into commercialisation of her health related innovation e-Vuze.

"The e-Vuze platform is currently working with 17 pharmacies and has potential to create 417 jobs for youth as every sector can hire a permanent officer to register interested members of the public into the system. There will also be about 30 districts representatives making a total of 447 jobs once the system is fully operational. It is also part of countries' initiative of cashless economy as patients will have payment options," she said.

Her newly registered software development company currently has 14 permanent employees who earn between Rwf120,000 and Rwf200,000 every month depending on their input and assignments.

"We pay the rent of Rwf160,000 every month and Rwf20,000 as district revenues which we are able to raise from software development for our clients," she said.

Local healthcare facilities seeking to acquire the e-Vuze software can acquire it at Rwf1.5 million with annual payments of Rwf600,000 for maintenance services.

The e-Farming software, so far has been bought by SEED CO a regional certified seed company.

The system which eases access to agricultural inputs and maintaining farming records to enable easy access to loans costs Rwf5 million .

"SEED CO which operates in 14 African countries also pays about Rwf400,000 every month for maintenance. It is such income that enables us pay staff, rent as well as other expenditure including strengthening existing savings groups," she said.

Ishemaryayo was awarded by the private sector federation (PSF) and the International Youth Fellowship (IYF) as the best female innovator in 2016.

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