Rwanda: First Lady Jeannette Kagame Makes Case for Rwandan Businesswomen

First Lady Jeannette Kagame (file photo).

First Lady Jeannette Kagame has insisted that there was a need to support women businesses, saying their contribution to the development of the country in the last 25 years has been unprecedented.

She also indicated that the past twenty five years since the Genocide against the Tutsi, women have played a crucial role in promoting their personal growth and the growth of their families.

"Women also played a core role in the rebuilding of the nation, promoting the unity of Rwandans as well as contributing to the security and development in general," Mrs. Kagame noted.

Rwanda has a significant number of women entrepreneurs, who now play a major role in the development of the country especially through their active involvement in the country's private sector.

"As figures show, women have a role to play to increase the economic growth and development of the country. Their businesses contribute 30 per cent to the GDP," she said.

She pointed out that research shows that women in the private sector across the world have seven things in common. Among others, having a resolute but well defined goal, instilling self-belief, accepting failure enthusiastically, and reducing any association with negative people

Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) (R) right chats with Mireille Ineza Karera, a motivational speaker and the Group Chief Executive Officer at KORA Coaching Group. Courtesy.

Initiating own businesses, building network, and utilising their time judiciously, she said, are other values.

"Based on the confidence you have I have no doubt that with these values, we shall see some of the names from the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda on the list of prominent businesswomen in the world," she noted.

This, she added, is also reflected in the Capacity Assessment Report which was conducted in 2018, and highlights what drove many women to start their own business.

Mrs. Kagame said that it was exciting that 86 per cent of women started their businesses in order to become self reliant, while another 83 per cent did it out of passion and believed it was their calling to do so.

On the other hand, 45 per cent admitted that their male counterparts supported their idea of starting their own businesses.

But the First Lady told the women that running their private businesses should not compromise other responsibilities: The parental roles they hold, promoting family and equally building the country.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame addresses women entrepreneurs at a gala dinner organised by the Rwandan Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs (RCWE) in Kigali on Friday night. The gala dinner was organised under the theme, Lighting the Future for Women Entrepreneurs. Courtesy.

She argued that it was similarly important for women to learn how to collaborate in their ecosystem, highlighting that it was, however, not a good idea for women to just do the same activities.

Instead, she noted, if one starts a factory, another one should be looking at that factory and ask what it will need to thrive and she can support that instead of opening a similar factory.

"This could strengthen business value chains, be it in terms of operations, market accessibility and promoting women working under this chamber of women," she said.

Currently, women head 42 per cent of enterprises in Rwanda which accounts for about 30 per cent of GDP.

According to Jeanne Francoise Mubirigi, the Chairperson of the Rwandan Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, 98 per cent of women businesses are informal.

"This is because women don't have access to sufficient capital, they are limited with high taxes at some point, and many others lack enough capacity to run businesses," she said.

What the organisation is doing is to address the exact problems that businesswomen face in Africa including empowering them through advocacy to access capital, mentorship and facilitating their career development.

Indeed data collected by the World Bank in ten African countries, including Rwanda, indicates that on average, male-owned enterprises have six times more capital than female-owned enterprises.

The fact that women have less access to assets affects their ability to obtain medium-sized loans and, in turn, impacts the growth of their enterprises.

The organisation is currently comprised of 5,000 businesswomen working in diverse economic sectors like tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and information and communication technologies, among others.

Chantal Nyirandama, one of the members and a businesswoman who runs Nice Garden Training centre that provides tourism and hospitality services in Gicumbi district, told Sunday Times that women have made major steps but that there are challenges to deal with going forward.

"Previously women running businesses wasn't ideal in the society. That has changed considerably. What we need now is to empower those in informal sectors through training and market access because that is the biggest challenge," she said.

The World Bank suggests giving women more control over assets through, for example, the granting of joint property rights (as is the case in Rwanda) or by eliminating the need for collateral can go along in allowing women to do business.

In Rwanda, more women currently own more land (24 per cent) than their male (14 per cent) counterparts, according to the recent Gender Equality index, and land is considered the main asset for production and investment

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