By Daniel Sabiiti
Last year four young Rwandan ladies and one male had separately hatched a good profitable business idea but didn’t know how to materialize it into a concrete business enterprise and this could potentially fail due to lack of business leadership skills.
Clarisse Murekatete, Ada Elyse Irirashenono, Regis Umugiranaeza Larissa Uwase’s idea was of making pastries out of sweet potatoes, and they decided to form CARL Group Ltd-an agriculture-focused firm and its main aim is to improve the health of Rwanda and Africa through innovative food produced from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
Besides the zeal to address the problem of malnutrition among women and children, all they invested in was Rwf300.000, their time and energy in an online marketing and research but there was something lacking to make their business grow.
Having little business experience and no money, they joined Digital Opportunity Trust Rwanda (DOT-Rwanda) StartUp training with intent to gain the business skills for a sweet potato business and taking their chances they joined the DOT 2015 Business Competition and emerging Best in ideas wining Rwf7million at the national level.
“These youths had a good business idea but didn’t know how to scale it up into a real operational business. Their company was formed during the training, after they had started seeing the possibilities of how to make it work practically” said Faith Mbabazi, the Communications, Development and Fundraising Manager at DOT Rwanda.
A year later, the company is now fully operative producing brand product like Vit A products (Vit A doughnuts, Vita A chips, Vit A cakes, and Vit A bread) from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. And also have samples of the spaghetti- which they are searching for funds to do more research and development-so that it can be refined to be added on the product consumption list.
CARL group is among the among the 2, 048 young entrepreneurs from 15 districts who took part in an intensive one-week boot camp in each district focusing on increasing on empowerment, innovation, business model generation, business planning, entrepreneurship and writing and financial literacy.
Out of the above trained, 67.3 percent of them have been able to scale-up their businesses, making them better and profitable.
“Today, the innovative youthful ladies who make up are taking the world by storm with their delicious, and are currently in DR Congo to negotiate a partnership deal with the Congolese Youth ministry” according Clarisse Murekatete, a co-founder of the group.
The CARL idea- which represents the first initials of the founder Christian names has managed from a local idea to global-representing the country at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2016 held in Kigali city.
Starting Next week Monday, more than 4, 000 fresh Rwandan university graduates and secondary school student- who have ‘great’ business ideas but don’t know how to implement them into a successful business enterprises will get the same opportunity as Rwanda joins other global communities’ to host the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2016.
The five day event to be held in Kigali from November 14 –18, 2016, and is expected to nurture youthful ideas into concrete business plans but with a focus on two specific areas- business leadership and how to practically Manage a business idea- besides financial challenges- of which many youth continue to give as reason for failure to become new entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship Experts from global and local companies like: Ideas4Africa, Private sector Federation (PSF)-Rwanda, Business Development Fund (BDF), Kigali City Council, Africa Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), Global Shapers Community and DOT will be among the mentors who will teach the youth to come up with concrete business ideas.
The successful nurturing of youth ideas is expected to add on the National Employment Program targets of having creating over 200.000 off-farm jobs each year, as ditch the looming challenges of unemployment which stands at 2 percent.
While some youth believe that access to finance has hampered the business ideas, the some of the Entrepreneurship experts says that there is more to financial challenges, that leads to some ideas remaining ideas, and attempted implementation of ideas failing to kick off beyond the start-up levels.
Battle to create more jobs
Rwanda has set a target of creating 2.2 million jobs in the off-farm sector by 2020 and so far over 80.000 jobs have been created since the National Employment Program (NEP) unveiled two years ago.
Livingstone Nkuusi, Branches Coordinator at the BDF, says that government has put all opportunities of the table for grabs for youth but leadership and managerial skills have more implicative costs in making a successful enterprise.
“The funds are their but this money cannot be the sole aspect of making a successful business, but the way to account and manage the funds focusing on opportunities which can help a business to grow from one step to another” Nkuusi said.
Pamela Munyana, the country director of Idea for Africa, said that in order for youth to become more enterprising the journey has to start with the education system and learners given the ability to think out of the box.
For example many Rwandan youth find it easy to duplicate another person’s ideas and limit themselves to small scale business – like opening a kiosk, salon, but without being creative in the business to create another dimension of the services.
“The solution to empowering youth to become entrepreneurs should start at an early stage. We are already engaging them at secondary school level and we want them to think about business when they’re young” Munyana said.
Experts from Africa Entrepreneur Collective say that Rwanda need to have a more human centered design training in managing their business so as to scale up a business idea which has funding.
Branding and marketing a business is what we would like to improve in Rwanda so that the funds invested in the business can lead to profitability” said Patrick Cyusa, the AEC-Rwanda Programme Manager
Rwanda Private sector Federation (PSF), thinks otherwise- that youth have to dream bigger and use the available opportunities and policies which have been made easier in Rwanda leading to the country being recognized as favourite place to do Business globally.
Youth should turn theory they are taught at school into practice. The opportunities in business are available but awareness on issues such as taxation, standards, investment policies and offers out there is still very low” said Pacifique Uwineza, the Director of the Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs at PSF
While these aspects are to be injected into Rwanda youth entrepreneurs, the National Employment Program (NEP) has embarked on skills development to add to the need to create more jobs and ultimately encourage creativity but also to create awareness on the success stories of the programme.
At least 30.000 direct jobs were created in the first fiscal year 2014, and another 50.000 jobs have created by June fiscal year 2016 under NEP as part the contribution to the national target- which is also so far above 230.000 jobs annually.
“These are just direct jobs created through skills and capital startups. This means that we are doing better than what we had targeted initially. We will do a midterm review of the programme in order to get the clear statistics of the indirect jobs created by those we supported” said Abdallah Nzabandora, the NEP coordinator.
Currently NEP has secured 300 jobs of them have been employed in factories like C&H Garment- which will also soon take up another batch of 600 trainees who will complete their six month courses this year.
Through the National Employment Program, Business Development Fund and other government initiative, Nzabandora believes that for Rwanda to cut on its unemployment levels which stand at two percent, there is need for youths to use the available opportunities.
For example, NEP has set up free life skills training programmes for unemployed university graduates at all five provincial based Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centers (IPRC) and subsidized loan and start-up kit packages for individual and group initiatives.
“We still need to improve on mass mobilization, to create awareness of these opportunities among the youths and especially women. Citizens need to seek information on these opportunities because the services are free” Nzabandora said.