Posted by: apscott | May 17, 2008

An Unlikely Hero

Who’s the most underrated entrepreneur out there?

Rwandan women.

14 years ago, 800,00 died in less than 3 months.

If there is any doubt that women are equal in every way to men, check out this article in the Washington Post today. As Anthony Faiola conveys:

“As both female and male survivors sought to rebuild coffee plantations with financial and technical assistance from international organizations, Maraba’s women, most trying their hands at the business of farming for the first time, were by far the faster students. They showed more willingness than men, officials here said, to embrace new techniques aimed at improving quality and profit. Now, Maraba’s female farmers are outdoing their male counterparts in both, numbering about half of all farmers in the village’s coffee cooperative but producing 90 percent of its finest quality beans for export.”

In African Enterprise, I discuss the importance of entrepreneurship in the development of Africa’s most impoverished areas. This is a clear cut case of what I am talking about. These female entrepreneurs have single handedly rebuilt a failing economy with a simple industry like coffee exports.

The focus of this blog is the necessity for entrepreneurship in Africa, but I wanted to point out some important byproducts of this occurrence which stretch into the realms of Human Capital. Possibly more important than the economic development is the social revolution that is taking place:

“Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women. Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. . . . We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality.

Back to my point – entrepreneurship is the backbone of the organic development of this area. The fuel behind this entrepreneurship comes in the form of micro-loans and micro-financing:

“The 29-year-old wife of a disabled army officer and mother of two took out a $50 microloan in 2005 with a plan to support her family. Her pitch: Few people in her neighborhood owned cellphones — so she would buy one and charge a few cents per call. She paid back the loan within a year. Last year, she took out a $400 loan to open a graining mill for cassava flour. Her businesses are earning the family a relatively princely sum of $650 a month.”

Whether the economic development of the region is fueling a social revolution or vice versa, the important key here is the absolute value placed on smart investment in entrepreneurship to cure this financial pandemic. In terms of development, African Enterprise see the problem as a lack of growing wealth as opposed to reducing poverty. Entrepreneurship is the business of expanding wealth and therefore holds the key to African development.

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