Celebrating Leading Women in Rwanda’s e-Commerce Space
From my young age, I have always had a dream of becoming self-employed. After my studies I worked in the IT domain for a couple of years and got the opportunity to work in the e-commerce sector. I discovered my passion for the industry when the company I was working for closed its doors while I was just starting to witness firsthand the impact it was creating in the Rwandan society. I then realized that this was the opportunity for me to start my own business, contributing my expertise and experiences to offer Rwandans an opportunity to continue shopping and selling online at the same time promoting our locally manufactured products (Made in Rwanda).
-Tadhim Uwizeye, CEO and Founder, OLADO
Tadhim Uwizeye is a Rwandan e-commerce business development professional with an academic background in computer science and information systems management. Her ten years of experience in the information and technology services focused on entrepreneurship and e-commerce. She is the founder and CEO of Olado Business Group, an e-commerce enterprise that she co-founded in 2017 with a mission to change and make the Rwandan shopping experience easier through e-commerce.
Despite the challenges posed by the infancy of the sector in Rwanda, Tadhim is optimistic about the development and adoption of e-commerce in the country.
‘Starting an e-commerce platform in Rwanda as a startup was itself a challenge. E-commerce was really in its infancy; it was new, and few people knew what it was. We were really the first movers. That comes with a lot of challenges — convincing people to adopt a new way of shopping and selling, having the trust in the safety of their identifications and more —. We had to do both marketing and education, but it took off in the end. Person to person selling is much more difficult,’ she emphasizes. The industry is becoming so promising, and it is encouraging to have so much customers excitement about our service and to see the growth.
Tadhim’s online marketplace displays various products for sale from Made in Rwanda products to imported products in different categories: Agro-processed food, fashion, electronics, household appliances, sports equipment, among others. Olado offers different payment options and delivery services to its users in Rwanda and abroad.
As part of its COVID-19 response and recovery plan, and in alignment with the Inclusive Digital Economies strategy, UNCDF Rwanda partnered with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and ICT Chamber to pilot a project that aims to support Rwanda MSMEs to increase their revenues through their presence on digital marketplaces with a focus on women-run businesses.
“The project is a COVID-19 recovery response, with an aim of supporting Macro Small and Medium Entreprises (MSMEs) to do their business digitally, especially after the lockdown period when only digitally runned businesses could operate. The project supports MSMEs to manage the crisis by helping them access a broader market within and outside the country. In addition, the project’s findings will contribute to the development of the e-commerce policy in Rwanda,” said Roselyne Uwamahoro, UNCDF Rwanda Program Coordinator.
Thadhim’s business, Olado, is one of the 25 e-commerce platforms that the project aims to strengthen. In a 12-month period, the project will also enable the digital onboarding of 1,000 MSMEs operating in different sectors while linking them with financing opportunities. It will also train 1,000 iWorkers (e-marketplace facilitators) and dispatch them to the field to train MSMEs on the usage of e-commerce platform.
“Being supported by the project has pushed us ahead. We are trained on the basics of building a successful business but more importantly we are given access to a network of other startups whom we could exchange ideas. we were able to secure basic support from different partners who appreciated our initiative, and we are now a recognized e-commerce platform, with promising opportunities ahead,” noted Tadhim.
For more on the inclusive digital economies strategy at UNCDF On International Women’s Day, March 8th 2021, a high-level coalition united to launch a bold call to action for “Reaching Financial Equality for Women”. The partners behind it are the UN-based Better than Cash Alliance, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, UN Women, Women’s World Banking and the World Bank.
The 10 actions for governments and companies to rebuild stronger after COVID-19 are:
- Digitize private sector payments
- Digitize payments of government social benefits
- Outlaw discrimination against women
- Ensure universal access to identification
- End the gender gap in mobile phone ownership
- Hire women at banks and mobile network operators
- Collect, analyze and use sex-disaggregated data
- Design appropriate and affordable financial products for women
- Help women benefit from e-commerce opportunities
- Create and enforce strong digital finance consumer protection mechanisms