Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) are powerful drivers of economic development. Lack of access to finance remains the key constraint limiting SME’s growth potential. The credit gap for SME’s in emerging markets is in the range of $2.1-$2.5 trillion. According to researchers, there is a gender dimension to the credit gap. The Worldbank’s IFC (International Finance Corporation) estimates that as much as 70% of women-owned SMEs in the formal sector in developing countries are not served or underserved by financial institutions.
Kountable empowers women in developing countries and emerging economies by helping them grow their businesses and by delivering goods and services to underserved communities to address social needs. Kountable connects the most promising entrepreneurs and their projects with short-term funding at affordable rates. Amongst the entrepreneurs we support, there are many women. 1 out of 3 of our approved projects are either proposed by a female managing director and/or deliver goods and services supporting women.
Kountable partners with Lydie Hakizimana, co-founder and Managing Director of Drakkar Ltd. Lydie launched her business in 2006 when her love of reading led her to open a secondhand bookstore. Today she supplies schoolbooks to the Rwandan Education Board, employing 45 people full-time and an additional two dozen part-time. Lydie has been recognized as one of the “100 Lionesses of Africa” and has received several national and international business awards. Her passion is spreading a culture of learning throughout her country.
When Lydie recently needed working capital to finance the acquisition of scientific equipment for Rwanda’s schools, local banks couldn’t help her. This was not related to the quality of the transaction or Lydie as a credit risk, but rather to how soon the funds were needed and the bank requirement for 100%+ collateral outside of the trade that is standard in Rwanda. She approached Kountable, and on the strength of her business history and the details of the deal, Kountable was able to quickly approve her proposal for financing, enabling Lydie to complete the scientific equipment delivery in time for the schools to administer their exams.
Venantie Mukarivuze is the founder and managing director of Biopharmacia Co Ltd, a company that provides specialized medical products and diagnostics equipment to leading medical facilities, particularly in Rwanda. Venantie grew up as an exiled refugee in a family that strongly believed in education with a sense of duty. She is also a wife and a mother of three. Having worked as a nurse for more than 15 years, Venantie’s main challenge was often the quality of medications provided and the lack of adequate equipment.
Biopharmacia was founded out of a deep commitment to meet the day-to-day needs in reliable and high-quality medical products. In order to achieve this vision, Biopharmacia has built partnerships with leading international manufacturers. Biopharmacia and Kountable partner together to provide medical supplies to local hospitals in and around Kigali. These supplies are used by the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), which fights multiple diseases in Rwanda.
Biopharmacia has recently focused on the area of microbiology, a strategic focus given the projected annual growth rate of 13% globally. This field has significant applications for millions of people affected by infectious diseases in Africa. Biopharmacia’s recent introduction of medical equipment in microbiology will improve the entire diagnosis process. Previously, a patient could spend more than a week at the hospital as her doctor tries to determine a diagnosis for a spiking fever. With the partnership with BD, the new equipment can take as little as 4 hours to help guide the physician’s diagnosis, leading to an early treatment and discharge, and a life saved. Venantie; “In my time as a nurse, this type of equipment would have made such a significant impact, and I am proud to have introduced the first model in Rwanda. We have greatly benefited from a partner like Kountable. Not only are we able to rely on Kountable as a flexible partner who provides us with strong financial support, it also allows us to further our competitive advantage and enhance our vision”.
Emma Uwimabera is the managing Director of IT Consult Group, an IT company based in Kigali that Kountable partners with. IT Consult Group was founded to respond to a growing need for electronic archiving. Emma is also finalizing a master’s thesis on Gender and Development and has successfully completed all her master’s courses. Emma’s dream is to positively impact women of her community and globally through women empowerment. As a woman in business in Rwanda Emma has experienced the challenges women face when they try to set up and run their own business. One of the big challenges is access to finance, according to Emma: “Women entrepreneurs face higher chances of decline when applying for finance. Being a patriarchal society it is still hard for financiers to believe that a woman can run a business sustainably on her own”. Partnering with Kountable removes this obstacle for Emma and opens the way for larger transactions in the future.
Until recently, Rwanda, a country of over 12 Million people, had just 2 neonatal intensive care units at a single location. Kountable has partnered with Rwandan entrepreneur Fabrice Schema, together with USAID and the Rwandan Biomedical Center, to add 24 new units in 8 different locations. Fabrice Shema coordinated his team through the importation, assembly and training of the hospital staff. The capital to fund the project came from the Kountable Delphi Trade Fund.
Kountable has also partnered with entrepreneur Cyusa Leandre to purchase and install Hewlett-Packard computers for a computer lab at a girls elementary school, enabling young girls to study computer science. Cyusa now leads Kountable’s operations in Rwanda, while keeping a sharp eye on opportunities for Kountable to empower talented women entrepreneurs in Rwanda.
Having proven the potential and profitability of its scalable model, Kountable is seeking additional investor capital to meet the strong entrepreneur demand in Rwanda and to expand to other countries. Kountable can now offer investors specifically interested in gender lens investing the option to earmark their investments exclusively for support to women entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs providing goods and services that directly improve the wellbeing of women.
In countries where U.S. dollars are scarce, buyers of urgently needed medical supplies and PPE are faced with the initial hurdle of the need to acquire dollars before they can even enter the highly competitive global procurement game.