July 15, 2024


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Meet Rwanda’s Yvette Ishimwe among the 2021 Top 20 outstanding African entrepreneurs

By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH), the flagship philanthropic programme for the Jack Ma Foundation, continues its commitment to addressing barriers to economic development and entrepreneurship across Africa.

Each year for 10 years (2021 being the 3rd edition), the ABH awards grant funding to 10 outstanding African start-ups/entrepreneurs as follows: the winner receives $300,000, the 1st Runner up receives $250,000, the 2nd Runner up receives $150,000 and 7 others in the Top 10 each receives $100,000 cash, on top of other networking and learning opportunities and support.

Rwanda has exhibited amazing entrepreneurs in the recent editions. In 2019 Rwanda’s entrepreneur Christelle Kwizera, Founder of Water Access Rwanda was the 3rd prize winner and walked away with $100,000 cash.

ABH just announced the 2021 Top 20 outstanding African entrepreneurs chosen from 12,000+ entries, selected by a prestigious pool of 233 judges.

Amongst them is Rwanda’s Yvette Ishimwe, Managing Director, IRIBA Water Group Ltd, a multiple award winning entrepreneur in the Food & Beverages industry. See brief Bio attached.

Yvette and the rest of the Top 20 African entrepreneurs are currently undergoing various training and evaluation where after the Top 10 will be announced in September or early October.

These will be headed to the grand finale where they will each pitch their business ideas live to global business legends in November to determine who takes what share of the USD 1.5 million prize pool. 

This year’s Top 20 entrepreneurs represent 11 African countries, including Nigeria (4), South Africa (2), Kenya (3), Uganda (3), Tanzania (1), Egypt (2), Cote d’Ivoire (1), Botswana (1), Rwanda (1), Ghana (1), and Togo (1). Of the Top 20 45% are female. There is an enormous diversity in the type of businesses, with sixteen different sectors represented including agriculture, beauty & wellness, construction, consulting, education, energy, environmental protection, financial services, Food & Beverages, healthcare, ICT, logistics, manufacturing, media & entertainment, retail, and transportation.

Judging revolves around visionary entrepreneurs who are providing innovative and robust solutions to problems in their communities.

TOPAFRICANEWS has held an Interview with Yvette from Rwanda and our session focused on ABH competition as well as her Entrepreneurship spirit. 

  1. Who is Yvette?

Yvette is the founder and CEO of IRIBA WATER Group Ltd, a social enterprise that offers innovative drinking water solutions. Yvette holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Southern New Hampshire University. She is a YALI Mandela Washington Fellow 2019, and has been awarded by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England in 2017 in recognition of the impact her work with IRIBA has brought to the community. Yvette served as the 2nd Vice president in the Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs in the Private Sector Federation of Rwanda for 2 years. Her on-going mission is to transform Africa through social entrepreneurship.

  1. Can you tell us about entrepreneurial story and your company as well?

From a young age, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial drive. In highschool, I used to save a portion of my pocket money and ventured into small businesses such as selling snacks in holidays, etc. After highschool when I was 19 years old, my entrepreneurship journey began from a water solution I brought to my village which at that time had zero access to clean water. From that, IRIBA was born and became what it is today. Established in 2017, IRIBA Water Group is a leading social enterprise in Rwanda offering innovative water  solutions to communities, individuals and schools. Witnessing people’s lives improved, revenues growing, more jobs created as a result of my decision to become an entrepreneur is what keeps me going.

  1. How did you get to know about the ABH grant opportunity?

I learnt about the Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) grant opportunity through social media. I saw ABH social media adds calling impact-driven African entrepreneurs who are improving lives through their innovative businesses.

  1. What does this competition mean to your business?

To me, this is a great platform to learn new strategies, improve what we are already doing, network with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors, and increase visibility and awareness of our innovative water solutions. Thus, making it this far in this competition is a huge honour and opportunity to me.

  1. How will you use the grant in case you win?

In case we win, we would use the grant to expand our business in Rwanda and grow our operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In DRC we have already piloted our projects there, and the results were very positive. Should capital show up, we would immediately implement our business growth plans.

  1. What have you learnt so far from the ABH competition and training?

What I have learnt so far from the ABH competition and training is “how to size realistically our total addressable market.

  1. Using your experience in the ABH competition, do you have any special advice to female entrepreneurs in Rwanda and the rest of Africa?

My advice to female entrepreneurs in Rwanda and the rest of Africa is this: It’s never too late or too early to start doing the business you love, the right time is NOW. Start with zero experience, start with very little money but be courageous to cease available opportunities, and you will surely get there.

  1. What could be your tips for other upcoming and existing start-ups in Rwanda and beyond?

The tip for upcoming and existing start-ups in Rwanda and beyond is: Open yourselves to learn and adapt your solutions according to what the market needs. Stay positive and persistent, you will surely get wherever you want to reach.

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