Kigali, RWANDA - The Ministry of Trade and Commerce has launched a national campaign to help citizens start up new business enterprises in a bid to create over a million SME jobs by 2020.
The campaign dubbed, 'Create a job' targets especially the youth and women and has reportedly cost the ministry over Rwf500 million ($1m).
"Women are the bread winners of most families and the youth are the most affected by unemployment yet they have more energy to steer the economy," said Emmanuel Hategeka the ministry's Permanent secretary.
Since January this year, the campaign in which participants were required to come up with business ideas to be developed later into plans attracted over 600 participants.
Mr Albert Bizimana, the ministry's specialist in Rural SME development told East African Business Week that the campaign seeks to support a new generation of Rwandans with entrepreneurial skills and aptitude that run competitive and innovative enterprises to further unlock the economies potential.
"We were overwhelmed by the number of ideas we received but we had to pick the best 50 from each of the 30 districts we have and sponsored owners in a training to develop their ideas into fundable business plans," said Bizimana.
The participants were trained by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) who signed an MOU with Rwanda's Ministry of Trade and commerce.
However, out of the 1,500 business ideas’ owners who took part in the training, just 600 of them (20 from each district) managed to produce good business plans worth funding.
Further training in advanced business plan development and implementation saw these 600 reduced to just 300 (10 per district) who managed to make it to the finals.
Most of the business plans were reported in the food processing and value addition sector followed by service provision.
However, the finalists might have such beautiful business ideas but it has been noticed they lack money of their own.
This is Africa's biggest challenge to investment. The fact that most people in Africa can't find capital to implement a business idea has been attributed to lack of a savings culture or just inability to do so.
In a situation where one earns enough to just survive the day, saving could be a tall order; but in a situation where one believes they can't start small and grow big, then it's the issue of mindset to address.
"We have actually found that most Rwandans believe in starting with big money instead of growing from small and indeed we have to help change that perception," explained Albert.
For instance, from the over 300 successful business plans, the smallest budget is RWF 2 million or US$3,350 dollars while the biggest is reportedly RWF 2 billion or US$3.3 million yet the owners lack even a quarter of the budget.
The problem is, while banks in Rwanda say they have a lot of money to lend to entrepreneurs, they also require one to have capacity in form of guarantees which is unfortunately not the case with most aspiring business people.
"So you get a situation where somebody has a healthy business plan but can't get funding because banks need more than a good idea to give in their money in a bid to reduce risks," said Bizimana.
To break this problem, the Rwandan Government has pledged to guarantee all business plans in this campaign to ensure the banks don't find it too risky a venture to be a participant.
The Government is working with at least 11 banks including micro finance institutions to make these ideas become real enterprises that can employ people and earn the economy some growth.
But this seems to be lacking as the ministry has set aside a week to actually revise all the plans' budgets and make them smaller for banks as well as Government to find it easier to partner with the entrepreneurs.
The Government's decision to be a guarantor of the entrepreneurs means if the beneficiaries' businesses fail to flourish as they predict in the plans, then the Government will stand to pay the banks.
However, if the venture works out well both the Government and banks will commit to the pledge of making the campaign an annual event to encourage SME development in the country.
"The success of this approach will also help us be in the position to hit our 2020 target of 1.4 million jobs two years earlier, in 2018," predicts Albert.
In a recent international conference on private sector development held here last month, leaders promised to take centre stage in helping spur SMEs in their own countries and Rwanda's ‘create a job campaign' could be one of the approaches to achieve that commitment.