By Samuel Ouma & Ajong Mbapndah L
IRIBA WATER Group Ltd, a social enterprise that provides innovative drinking water solutions, is founded and led by Yvette Ishimwe. Yvette graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She is a YALI Mandela Washington Fellow 2019 and was honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England in 2017 for the positive influence she has had on the community via her work with IRIBA. For two years, Yvette was the 2nd Vice President of the Rwandan Private Sector Federation’s Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs. Her ongoing purpose is to use social entrepreneurship to transform Africa.
By being among the Top 20 finalists of the 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes Competition Prize, the Jack Ma Foundation’s philanthropic program, she shared with the Pan African Visions her journey and future expectations.
What inspired you to apply for the ABH competition?
The ABH competition is looking for business heroes, entrepreneurs who are driven to positively improve lives, and I see myself as one of those. So I applied for the competition because I saw that they are calling entrepreneurs like myself.
How did you feel being selected among the ABH 2021 Top 20 outstanding entrepreneurs and how have you managed to make this far in a tight continent-wide competition?
I felt so much thrilled and honored to be selected among the ABH 2021 Top 20 entrepreneurs. Given the fact that everyone who made it to the Top 50 really deserved the spot in the Top 20… I am honored and motivated to be part of the Top 20 selected.
What has the ABH competition meant for you and your business so far?
It means an opportunity for us to grow and reach our goals.
What are your impressions about the ABH and how it helps in the growth of entrepreneurship in Africa?
I think ABH is supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in Africa in a very practical way. From mentorships, networking, marketing opportunities and funding…. This is actually what African entrepreneurs need to succeed.
What will you do if selected in the final 10 and top winners?
It feels like a dream right now, but I selected in the final 10 and top winners… that will be a life changing opportunity for me and my business. We will ensure to get the best out of that platform including using the funds to scale our work, leveraging the marketing and networking opportunities that come with the prize, etc.
How will the prize change your business operations?
The prize will help us to grow our work and expand them further in Rwanda and DRC.
Wat do you think is the motivation behind the fast increasing female entrepreneurship across Africa?
Even though we still have a long way to go with motivating female entrepreneurship across Africa; but I think today one of the key reasons why female entrepreneurship is fast increasing is because the society is progressively shifting the mindset around women empowerment. And once a woman is empowered and believed-in, she creates impressive ventures.
Any advice to budding female entrepreneurs in your country and in Africa especially at a time when the pandemic has left many African economies struggling?
My advice to budding female entrepreneurs in Africa is … never give up on your aspirations and dreams. The road is not always smooth, but with persistence and dedication you will reach your destination regardless of the bumps on your way.