Rwanda: Two Female Rwandan Entrepreneurs Secure Funding From Jack Ma Foundation

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18 November 2019

Christelle Kwizera, the founder of Water Access Rwanda and Kevine Kagirimpundu, the Co-founder and CEO of Uzuri K&Y have secured $100,000 and $65,000 respectively from Jack Ma Foundation.

The duo is among the top 10 entrepreneurs from Africa that won funding from the Jack Ma Foundation Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative.

The awarding ceremony took place in Accra, Ghana on November 16, 2019 during the Africa Netpreneur Summit.

It gathered African and global entrepreneurs, investors, educators and leaders who discussed how best to nurture entrepreneurship and the digital economy across the continent.

The finalists were chosen from nearly 10,000 applicants from 50 African countries.

The top ten finalists pitched their ideas directly to four judges, including China's Jack Ma, the Founder of Alibaba Group and Jack Ma Foundation, Strive Masiyiwa, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Group, Ibukun Awosika, the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and Founder/CEO of The Chair Centre Group as well as Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group.

Rwanda's Christelle Kwizera, the founder of Water Access Rwanda, who is also a mechanical engineer, emerged the third, securing $100,000.

Water Access Rwanda pioneered INUMA, a Safe Water Microgrid that reclaims broken boreholes and transforms them into state-of-the-art solar-powered water kiosks and pipelines.

Speaking to the media after securing the award, she said; "With my team we have already made growth plan for the next few years, strategic investments that we need to make in the business.

The money is first of all going to help meet some of our needs in terms of (recruiting) the right personnel that we need for the next round because we need to raise quite more money and we will get the right financial advice and strengthen our operations so that we be ready for scale and build more systems within Rwanda."

She said that currently, Water Access Rwanda allows 47,612 customers to access water across 86 stations in the country, particularly in Nyarugenge, Rwamagana, Ngoma, Bugesera and Rusizi district.

It employs 68 people having started in 2014 with four volunteers.

"Our projection is to actually cover the entire country; not just the people who don't have access to water but also people who do not have reliable access including within Kigali," she said.

She came after the Egyptian Dr Omar Sakr, the Founder and CEO of Nawah- Scientific company, the first private research center in his region focused on natural and biomedical sciences who secured $150,000

The first entrepreneur who secured $250,000 is a Nigeria's Temie Giwa-Tubosun the Founder and CEO of LifeBank Company that is in the medical distribution business.

Other finalists pocket $65,000

Each of the remaining seven finalists including Rwanda's Kevine Kagirimpundu secured $65,000.

Her firm, UZURI K&Y, is an African-inspired eco-friendly shoe brand established in Rwanda.

UZURI has made a direct impact on more than 750 people through employment and skills training.

In 2017, she was recognised as the winner of the Made in Rwanda Enterprise of the Year.

Other winners included Waleed Abd El Rahman, CEO of Mumm Company, a virtual cafeteria for businesses with an online marketplace in Egypt, Ayodeji Arikawe, co-founder of Thrive Agric which is an agricultural technology-enabled company that works with 22,000 farmers in Nigeria in enhancing access to finance, Mahmud Johnson, founder and CEO of J-Palm based in sustainable palm-oil production in Liberia.

There is also Dr Tosan J. Mogbeyiteren, the founder of Black Swan that uses software as service in digital record-keeping and community engagement to increase birth registration and early childhood immunizations in Nigeria.

Others are Chibuzo Opara, co-founder of DrugStoc as a cloud-based pharmaceutical IT and logistics platform focused on eliminating counterfeit drugs, expanding access to pharmaceutical products in Nigeria as well as Moulaye Taboure, the co-founder and CEO of Afrikrea which is the "Made of Africa" fashion, art and handicraft online marketplace based in Cote D'Ivoire.

Speaking at the summit Jack Ma, said: "Young entrepreneurs are the heroes that will make impossible possible in creative and innovative ways. Good entrepreneurs leverage and make use of problems in society. Africa never lacks opportunities," he said.

"The awarded entrepreneurs are seeds of hope of Africa who will inspire other entrepreneurs and change people's lives as their success will bring new hope of Africa," he added.

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