Beneficiaries Speak out: Digital Skills for Business Pilot Project Bears Fruit

In March 2021, DOT Rwanda launched the Digital Skills for Business (D24B) project in partnership with the World Bank’s Digital Development Partnership (DDP), EQUALS’ Access Coalition and the GSMA.

       Jennifer Muhoza, Digital Champion in Rubavu district coaches women entrepreneurs on how to find information on Google.

The Digital Skills for Business(DS4B) pilot project aims at empowering 150 young women business owners to boost their ICT knowledge and adopt the use of ICT tools in their businesses in a gender equitable and digitally enabled environment in Rwanda. 

Through the partnership with the DS4B project, DOT Rwanda provides young women, owners of small, micro and informal businesses with the digital skills for business to empower them to boost their ICT knowledge and adopt the use of ICT tools in their businesses, particularly those impacted by the socio-economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Digital Skills for Business( DS4B) initiative will also help create partnerships, linkages, coaching and mentorship to support young women- led businesses establishment, growth and sustainability.

In July 2021, DOT Rwanda introduced its first cohort of Digital Champions and Business Coaches, including those to serve under the Digital Skills for Business( DS4B) project. The selected Digital Champions and Business Coaches were unemployed recent university or college graduates or young community leaders. They are tech savvy with business knowledge, passionate for gender inclusion, transformation and community empowerment. They are based in the communities in which they serve.

Delphine Uwamwezi, Digital Champion in Nyarugenge district leading the training session

The Digital Champions and Business Coaches are contributors and beneficiaries of DOT Rwanda’s programs. As contributors, they are Lead Facilitators and Coaches for Digital Skills For Business in their own communities. As beneficiaries, they grow their leadership abilities, necessary skills, tools and networks for them to gain access to employment opportunities and become leaders of local community development initiatives. 

The Digital Skills for Business pilot project targets young women entrepreneurs from all the provinces of Rwanda and the City of Kigali, in Nyarugenge, Rulindo, Musanze, Rubavu, Kayonza and Rwamagana districts.

We are delighted to feature some of the young women entrepreneurs who have enrolled and are participating in the Digital Skills for Business project. They share their experiences, what they have learned, how they have benefited from the program, and what they look forward to as the program continues:

Rulindo District

Clementine Uwineza is a 30 years old young woman from Rulindo District where she runs a business selling clothes for children and adults. She attended vocational and training education, and has access to a basic/ feature phone. Prior to starting the business of selling clothes, Clementine was selling irish potatoes. She joined the Digital Skills for Business program with the aim to learn practical business and ICT skills so that she can start using technology in her business. “Before joining the program, I didn’t know that I could advertise and sell products via social media. I knew and thought that cell phones are for just making calls, but now I know I can use my cell phone to market and sell my products. I am excited to learn how to do that.” Clementine says.  Clementine hopes to use the technology skills from this program to grow her business, reach more people and make better revenues and profits. “ My biggest business goal is to be able to get enough profits, have enough to pay for school fees and insurance for my children and have some savings.”

Musanze District

Chantal Uwamahoro is a 30 years old woman from Musanze district, with only primary level of formal education, and access to basic/ feature phone. She spent 2 years learning tailoring skills using a simple sewing machine. She was able to purchase herself a sewing machine and started working for herself. Chantal joined the Digital Skills for Business Program to not only learn how she can adopt technology in her business but also build her confidence. “Since starting this program, my communications skills have significantly improved. I am able to communicate better with my clients, understand their needs, and also receive feedback.” Chantal. “ I am also looking forward to learning how I can use technology to manage my business operations, learn about new designs using the internet, and advertise my products and designs using social media, which will ultimately grow the market for my products”. Chantal adds.

Nyarugenge District

Clarisse Uwurukundo is a 27-year old business woman  from Nyarugenge district, Kigali City. She completed university and graduated with Bachelor’s degree and has a smartphone. Clarisse sells clothes for girls from  16 years old. Before joining the Digital Skills for Business program, Clarisse didn’t know how to keep customers, grow her monthly income and online marketing “Joining the Digital Skills for Business program has been an answer for me. I am now able to identify what was missing in my business, such as changing the environment as well as learning from others who do the same business as mine. Apart from that, I am starting to learn how to use a computer and how I can apply skills acquired in my business.” said Clarisse. “The number of customers has increased and I expect an increase in profits in the days to come.” Clarisse adds.

Droscas Mukahabimana makes and sells rugs (carpets) in Nyabugogo Market. Droscas is equipped with primary school level education and has access to a smartphone. Before joining the Digital Skills for Business Program and before the COVID-19 pandemic, Droscas used to sell her products to people abroad, especially in the Philippines. The pandemic affected her business and Droscas lost her customers in the Philippines. She didn’t have a lot of customers in Rwanda because the price of her products was high. She was excited to join the Digital Skills for Business training to learn more about business and digital skills. “ Some of the modules that help me in my business are identifying business needs, articulating business vision and Business Model Canvas. I am also excited that I am learning digital skills,” said Droscas. Owing to the learning from this training, Droscas can now sell her products to local customers at an affordable price and still gain profit.

Rwamagana District

Anne Belle Mutuyimana is a 25 years old young lady from Rwamagana District, Muhazi sector. She is a university student, equipped with a feature phone and a smartphone, and is an entrepreneur. She operates a mini supermarket where she sells vegetables, snacks, house supplies, among others.  She joined the Digital Skills for Business program with the aim of gaining business and digital skills, which will help her to improve her business activities. “Before joining the program, I was doing business without any business skills. I didn’t know how to treat customers. I didn’t know how to face the competition. Even if I had a smartphone, I didn’t know that it could be useful for my business. I mostly used my smartphone for online learning and to chat with my friends. Now I am using my smartphone to market my products. My income has increased and the business is becoming wide because I have been adding some items according to my customers’ needs. I also know that the skills I will get from the Digital Skills for Business program will help me to get to the next level,” Anne Belle.

Kamonyi District

Marcia Mukandekezi lives in Kamonyi district. Marcia completed secondary school and has access to a feature phone and works as a Telecommunication Agent for MTN and Airtel. She has worked with MTN providing telecommunication services such as airtime, and Mobile Money transfers for 10 years. “ Before I joined the Digital Skills for Business Program, I didn’t value my  business much. I struggled to keep customers. However, I have now understood more the value of what I do. I have learnt to treat my customers well, and I see good results as they keep coming back.” Marcia says.

Marcia also credits the program for teaching her and her peers the importance of excellence. “ I am confident that after these training sessions, I will have acquired more business and ICT skills, and will have more customers. I intend to no longer work under the umbrella of service and to rent a house where I will operate, in bigger and better ways.” Marcia adds.

Kayonza District

Marie Therese Nyiranizeyimana is a 30 years old young woman. Marie Therese has secondary school education, and access to a feature phone and a smartphone. She is a tailor and makes and sells clothes in Kayonza district. “ I joined the Digital Skills for Business because I wanted to discover if I can acquire business and digital skills that I can adopt in my business”. Marie Therese says. “Since starting the program, I have discovered that one important part of business is marketing, whether by word of mouth or by other means. I have learnt that online marketing is now becoming increasingly important as a lot of people are on social media.” Marie Therese looks forward to exploring this option for her business and growing her business. After these training sessions, with improved skills, I am hoping to buy a modern sewing/tailoring machine. With Internet skills, I will have discovered great designs that I will start making. I will advertise them using my social media platforms, and I am confident I will  expand my business.” Marie Therese adds.

Musanze District

Jacqueline Mukasine is a 35 years old woman with primary level school education. Married with three children, Jacqueline is equipped with a basic phone, and has been a potato farmer for 9 years. When she started this business, she planted 1 sack of potatoes and harvested 400Kgs. Over the years, she has increased her yield to 700 Kgs. As many farmers in her community, during the harvest season, Jacqueline struggles to find a market for her potatoes. “ I joined the Digital Skills for Business first to learn if technology can help me find customers, and also to find if technology can help me learn modern ways to do farming.” Jacqueline says. Although we are at the beginning of the program, I have learnt that I can use technology to expand my market. As digitization is becoming very important for any sector, I also hope I will adopt some digital technology into my farming. I will also expand my business beyond potato farming and include poultry. I will continue to learn and use all the skills from these training sessions to achieve these goals.” Jaqueline adds.

Rubavu District 

Drocella Nyirabizimana is a 28 years old young woman from Cyanzarwe sector, Rubavu District. Drocelle finished primary level education and has access to a basic/feature phone. She owns a bakery that she started 2 years ago. Drocella has always been curious to know how she can use technology to improve her business but she couldn’t find a place where she could learn. She was excited to hear that DOT Rwanda is starting the Digital skills for Business program in her sector, and immediately joined. “Since I joined this program, my life has completely changed! So far I have gained different skills such as how to take care of my customers and understand their needs. I have developed my business vision and mission and I have opened a savings account. What has excited me the most is that I have learnt how to use social media for marketing. I now post my products (cakes, doughnut, breads, etc) on different social media, to market and receive feedback from my customers. This has helped me to collaborate with my customers, know what they want, and how I can make the best products. My income has so far increased by 30%.” said Drocella. Drocella hopes to gain more skills and increase the quantity of her products to satisfy her customers’ needs.