Rwanda: U.S. Ambassador’s Fund Avails U.S.$76,000 for Small Enterprises
East African Business Week (Kampala)
23 July 2007
Posted to the web 23 July 2007
The US Ambassador’s self help fund dished out small grants worth US$76,000 to different small business associations in Rwanda in 2006.
According to the public affairs officer, public diplomacy at the US Embassy in Kigali Mr. Brian George, the small associations are given one time grants and not revolving funds.
"We want to reward people who take the initiative. They need to come up with business plans showing how many people it will affect and the impact it will have," he said. The funds need to be meaningfully utilised in a business venture for the welfare of members of an association and not a few individuals.
George made the remarks during the ‘Self Help Expo & Craft Fair’exhibition that show cased items produced by beneficiaries of the US Ambassador’s self help fund held at the American Club in Kigali on June 23.
He told Business Week that the activities of the recipient association must be income generation in nature and preferably in the rural communities outside the capital city, Kigali.
Products made by these local associations include honey, banana leaf handicrafts, shoes, necklaces, fabric bags, crocheted bags, pottery, Barbeque (BBQ) sauce, table mats, children’s bathrobes, handmade toys and bread rolls. Representatives from each of the co-operatives selling goods was on hand to describe how the program has benefited them.
The Ihorere Association is one of the beneficiaries. The group specializes in making hand woven baskets and comprises 50 former street kids from Kigali.
The president of the Ihorere Ms. Emerence Ntagara told Business Week that she has nurtured the former street kids and taken them through a 6months training schedule on the craft of basket weaving. With the ban on polythene bags announced by the three East African states during the June budgets such a venture is bound to find a market.
"I train the kids to become self reliant and they can get money to buy food and other needs," she said.
Ms. Chantal Abera who is involved in baking yeast rolls and bread and Ms. Mary Uwanyuze an expert in BBQ sauce said the self help fund has given them hope that one day they will be fully self employed. "If I get more customers, I will expand on my business," remarked Abera.
To ensure accountability, different embassy staff are assigned to oversee specific projects that they visit twice a year.
Some of the small associations have been groomed to the bigger stage as explained by the economic and commercial officer at the US Embassy, Mr. Daniel Stoian.
"One of the groups has won a contract to construct the perimeter fencing at the new Embassy complex under construction," he said. The US Ambassador’s Self Help program provides grants from the US Embassy to grass root projects that create a sustainable income for Rwandan co-operatives.
All Self help projects are community based, initiated locally, administered at the local level and include significant community contributions in cash, labour or materials. The goal of self help projects is to improve the lives of people in a given community.