Announcing the Twiteze Imbere Campaign Award Celebration

Celebrating the Twiteze Imbere Campaign Award Winning Small Businesses


To recognise and celebrate the winners of the Twiteze Imbere campaign SME Response Clinic Business Awards, and reflect on the campaign, Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) and ConsumerCentriX hosted a half-day celebration alongside key campaign partners on May 19th.

The Twiteze Imbere campaign was created to recognize the role small businesses are playing in Rwanda’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the campaign, the general public nominated their favorite small businesses, giving their nominees the chance to win an SME Response Clinic Business Award. The competition featured three categories: women-owned businesses, start-up or innovative businesses, and established businesses. Three winners and five runners-up stood out from almost 2,000 nominations.

During the celebration, Jean Bosco Iyacu, Country Director of AFR, congratulated the winners and thanked them for their role in Rwanda’s economic recovery. Mr. Iyacu also highlighted AFR’s ongoing efforts to support small businesses in Rwanda and appreciated the diversity within the businesses that were nominated.

Anna Gincherman, Managing Partner at ConsumerCentriX, encouraged the entrepreneurs to utilise the SME Response Clinic’s resources to grow their businesses.

“The SME Response Clinic will continue to support entrepreneurs by providing access to financial opportunities and information on business development services,” she said.

The three winners discussed how they plan to use the one million Rwandan francs prize to grow their businesses. They responded to some questions from partners and networked with business development experts including RICEM’s Dr. Olivier Mukulira and Malik Shaffy, Country Manager of the African Management Institute in Rwanda (AMI).

Jean Bosco Manirareba, winner in the established businesses category, said that the prize money will be invested to expand market reach beyond Kirehe District where Umucyo operates.

Hamdani Habumuremyi, winner of the start-up/innovative business category said: “The prize money will allow me to acquire new machinery and equipment to support my business activities.”

Judith Kaine, winner in the women-led businesses category said: “I plan to use the award to increase visibility and awareness of my business across Rwanda.”

In addition to the prize money, the three winners will each receive expert business advisory services provided by Rwanda Institute for Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship and Microfinance (RICEM), and AMI. These services will equip them with the skills and knowledge to further improve the success of their businesses.

Meet the winners here

Kwinjiza Ibigo by’ubucuruzi bito n’ibiciriritse byo mu Rwanda mu bucuruzi bukoresha ikoranabuhanga: Amahirwe n’inzitizi zirimo.

Kwinjiza Ibigo by’ubucuruzi bito n’ibiciriritse byo mu Rwanda mu bucuruzi bukoresha ikoranabuhanga: Amahirwe n’inzitizi zirimo. 

Kuwa 30 Werurwe 2021 saa cyenda z’amanywa  

Utumiwe mu kiganiro nyunguranabitekerezo kizakoreshwa na SME Response Clinic  hifashishijwe  ikoranabuhangakikazakorwa hamwe n’abafatanyabikorwa b’ingenzi bakomoka mu nzego za Leta n’iz’abikorera zifite uruhare mu bucuruzi bukoresha ikoranabuhanga mu Rwanda.  Icyo kiganiro kizakorwa hakoreshejwe ikoranabuhanga kizabakigamije  kungurana ibitekerezo ku bikorwa biriho byo kwinjiza ibigo by’ubucuruzi bito n’ibiciriritse mu mahuriroy’ibigo bikora ubucuruzi bikoresheje ikoranabuhanga kikazibanda ku mahirwe ibigo bito n’ibiciriritse bifite muri urworwego , inzitizi bihura nabyo, ndetse n’ibisubizo bishoboka bijyanye no gukuraho izo nzitizi.    

Icyo kiganiro kizanyura kuri paji ya Facebook ya SME Response Clinic; abazakitabira bakazabasha  kubaza ibibazo no gutanga ibitekerezo byabo kuwa 30 Werurwe saa cyenda z’amanywa mu rurimi rw’ikinyarwanda ahanini  

Uzayobora ikiganiro: Christophe Nkurunziza: Umuyobozi wa IHUZO PROJECT 


  • Alex Ntale: Umuyobozi Mukuru wa ICT Chamber 
  • Albert Munyabugingo: Umuyobozi Mukuru wa Vuba Vuba 
ConsumerCentriX is a Proud Co-Sponsor of this Event

Uganda Tourism

How the Tourism Sector in Uganda Can Recover and Thrive

The COVID-19 Business Hub spoke with Richard Kawere, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Association, to learn how the tourism sector in Uganda can recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future. In partnership with Stanbic Bank of Uganda, ConsumerCentriX is responsible for creating content for the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

Ernest:  Can you please introduce yourself and describe your role at Uganda Tourism Association and tell us; what does the association do for the tourism sector?

Richard Kawere: My name is Richard Kawere, the Chief Executive Officer and technical coordinator of the Uganda Tourism Association. Uganda Tourism Association is the umbrella body of tourism private sector in Uganda.  In my role as the chief executive officer, I ensure that the association meets its mandate. This involves coordinating the private sector, in terms of advocacy, capacity building, product development, marketing and harmonized quality assurance standards.

We have approximately eight-member associations, including the Association of Guide Tour Operators, the Hotel Owners Association, and The Travel Agents Association. The General Managers Association, the Uganda Safari Guide Association, the National Cultural Crafts Association and the Tourism Trade show.

We remain focused on ensuring that we have a sustainable tourism industry in Uganda. To achieve this vision, we intervene between the government and the private sector for a favorable business environment for tourism enterprises in Uganda.

Ernest Wasake: Could you please tell us how the tourism sector has been affected by COVID?

Richard Kawere: The tourism sector has been the worst hit industry. If we are to narrow it down from the global perspective to the Ugandan perspective, the tourism industry was hit, actually before COVID entered Uganda. Because when COVID-19 hit the globe, cancelations started coming in as early as January and February. And those cancelations meant loss of business. As a result, businesses started going down as early as January and February.

By the time they announced a lockdown, tourism industry had already suffered substantial business loss. Each subsector of the tourism industry was hit differently. In terms of outbound tourism, the travel agents industry, suffered about 97 percent business loss with the announcement of airport closures. In terms of inbound tourism, our study (The Impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, July 2020) revealed that tour operators suffered about 80 percent business loss (around 30.4 Million US dollars – 0.11 trillion shillings) in inbound tourism between the months of February and July. Meanwhile, the accommodation sector lost about 1.19 trillion shillings by July as a result of 48,966 room cancelations. On average, the study that we conducted puts the industry at a loss of about 92 percent of businesses and because there was no activity, there were temporary layoffs and about 80 percent of the workforce was fully laid off.

Ernest Wasake: What needs to be done to help the tourism sector recover and thrive?

Richard Kawere:  It requires a number of mixed strategies for our industry.  All businesses lost revenue and continue to pay operating costs, meaning that all tourism businesses have run out of, what I would call, operational cash flow, and some of them are tentatively even closed.  For the survival of the industry, we are looking at two dimensions: One dimension is survival in the form of grants and the other dimension is the recovery through soft loans. A mixture of those two is very important.

Marketing is also essential. As the globe settles down because now there’s this glimpse of a vaccine, it is all those countries that have been in touch with their clientele that will be on the travel lists. A good amount of money needs to be spent on constant marketing and promotion of Uganda as a destination. Because once there is some level of confidence for travelers to move, they will go to those destinations that have been properly marketed.

Additionally, Businesses need to be supported in the area of capacity building (both online and in person training), so they can design strategies to respond to such catastrophes like this one in the future. The psychological impact on business owners and employees is quite high. So making sure employees are counseled and also empowered through capacity building so that there is hope still ringing in the minds of these employees and the business enterprises. Most importantly is the adoption of technology as the new way for most of the business processes in the tourism industry. So first survive, then recover and then develop resilient mechanisms for future catastrophes.

Ernest Wasake: What would you say the future looks like in terms of if you were to sort of glance into what the future looks like, if the right things were put in place? What does the future look like for tourism?

Richard Kawere: Wherever there is a challenge, there’s always an opportunity. We have a very strong belief that this industry will bounce back strongly. Especially because people have been confined in [home] areas, we believe there is going to be a very strong push for people to move out and shake off the stress. That positive belief indicates that there will be an increased demand for the tourism services, both locally and internationally for both inbound and outbound.

It is also important that we have a secure and safe environment and a secure political environment. That gives confidence to our clients to arrive in one or two years since the vaccine is getting some little headway, maybe in about one year we may start [the journey of recovery] all over. The future of the industry is bright. What we need to do is to get our strategies right now. If we get our strategies right, then we would be able to compete favorably with other destinations.



A look back at 2020

A look back at 2020

Like small businesses across the globe, ConsumerCentriX felt firsthand the challenges of the pandemic in our work.  The very nature of how we go about our business suddenly changed. As consultants, we have spent years addressing financial inclusion in emerging markets by working closely with local partners the world over – largely in person. By the end of March, it was clear that traveling would no longer be a possibility for us for the foreseeable future.

Instead, we had to find new ways to stay connected to our partners in different markets. We retained local teams in Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda to ensure that projects stayed on schedule and developed new relationships with additional external partners.

It will come as no surprise that like many, we traded meetings in bank boardrooms for meetings on computer screens. And while there is no true replacement for an in-person meeting, we realized that many of our established relationships could be maintained through regular video conferencing. For example, in 2019, we convened a group of high-level regulators at the Bellagio Center in Italy to discuss strategies for accelerating digital financial inclusion. Bonds were cemented and the group was committed to continue to work together. We anticipated re-convening the group in three additional in-person sessions over 2020-2021; however, in light of the pandemic, we took the group virtual. Each month, the group reconvenes on Zoom and discusses topics ranging from recent regulatory changes to improve banking laws to strategizing on how to leverage technologies such as QR codes for improved customer transactions.

The pandemic not only forced us to change the way we communicate with partners and external stakeholders but also allowed us to innovate when it came to interacting directly with entrepreneurs. When lockdowns began in Rwanda and Uganda back in March, we recognized the challenges that all entrepreneurs in these two countries faced in finding a centralized place to get information. As a result, we created two digital platforms, the SME Response Clinic and the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.  Both sites provide regular updates on new policies, products and financial advice with the intention of helping entrepreneurs not only survive the pandemic but thrive in the time ahead.

Lastly, we also changed the way we interact with other stakeholders working in the financial inclusion space. We were excited to release a publication recently on the business case for providing non-financial services to women-owned SMEs at two highly visible virtual events – a Financial Alliance for Women Event in October and the SME Finance Forum in November.  While we would have love to spoken in person with stakeholders about the publication, we were deeply gratified by conversations and enthusiasm communicated via virtual panels and chat messages.

While many things changed for us in 2020, our commitment to creating a more equitable world through inclusive finance has not wavered. If anything, our work has become more important than ever as the pandemic exacerbated economic disparities across markets.  We hope to have made a lasting impact through the projects we wrapped up this year and to continue to make meaningful impact through new projects we engage in over the months and years to come.

2020 Project Updates

The following sections provide more information on our work in 10+ markets during what has been an unforgettable year.

OUr team had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to work on the segmentation one month before the lockdown.

Developing a holistic SME banking model to address financial and non-financial needs of entrepreneurs in East Africa

The key objective of this project is to develop a holistic SME banking model to address financial and non-financial needs of entrepreneurs in Uganda and Rwanda by partnering with two leading regional banks (Stanbic/Standard Bank Group and Kenya Commercial Bank) as well as NFS providers over a 3-year time period. We conducted customer segmentation studies that informed the design of SME propositions in both countries and assisted in the development of NFS offers for both banks.  This project is funded by the Argidius Foundation

The Key to Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women led Small and Medium Enterprises for Banks

Global research on the insights in the business case for non-financial services to women-owned SMEs

In the fall of 2020, ConsumerCentriX produced a report and two case studies for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), focusing on insights into the business case for non-financial services. Through extensive primary and secondary research, ConsumerCentriX identified the business case and best practices in providing non-financial services to women-owned SMEs

Click here to l.earn more about the Publication

Check out videos from the KCB Case Study

KCB Bank: Focusing on Women SMEs and non-financial services is a win-win for all

Non-financial services were instrumental in growing Patricia Mwangi’s business in Kenya

NFS from her bank helped Wanjiru Mbugua turn a side hustle into a thriving business

COVID-19 Business Info Hub

Introducing the COVID-19 Business Info Hub

In May 2020, Stanbic Bank and ConsumerCentriX launched the COVID-19 Business Info Hub. This website was developed to meet the needs of small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda in understanding the latest policies affecting SMEs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken by Stanbic Bank and venture funds to support clients and non-clients. The site also provides access to experts from the public and financial sectors and access to online training and business skills development courses for entrepreneurs through the Stanbic Business Incubator.

Check out example videos from the COVID-19 Business Info Hub

Cleaning up after COVID-19: An Interview with Lydia Syson Naiga of NLS Services Limited

Meet Rachel Lubega, Director of Quality Management Services Ltd

Meet Anne Namakula, Owner of Contour Consult

The SME Response Clinic

In May 2020, Access to Finance Rwanda and ConsumerCentriX launched the SME Response Clinic. This website was developed to meet the needs of small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in Rwanda in understanding the latest policies affecting SMEs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken by financial services providers to support clients and non-clients. The site also provides access to experts from the public and financial sectors and access to online training and business skills development courses for business owners. While the site has a particular focus on SMEs, information relevant for microenterprises is also available.

Introducing the SME Response Clinic

Check out example pieces of content from the SME Response Clinic

Simbare Gilbert, an Entrepreneur in Rwanda, explains the challenges of the pandemic and how he managed to overcome them.

Giselle Mukanyandwi, a Business Development Advisor, prepares entrepreneurs to overcome hardships and thrive

Mobile Money Charges in Rwanda

Bellagio Working Group on Digital Financial Inclusion

In 2019, ConsumerCentriX conceived and facilitated “Identifying Practical Solutions to Accelerating Financial Inclusion Through Government and Private Sector Collaborations” convening with top regulators from Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria and leading technical experts which resulted in identification of country-level initiatives that have been subsequently incorporated into national financial inclusion plans in respective markets.  Through the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bellagio Working Group on Digital Financial Inclusion was formalized in the spring of 2020.Through monthly virtual meetings, participants continue to collaborate by sharing important lessons and continuing to work together to find solutions for accelerating digital financial inclusion.

Check out this blog on the Bellagio Working Group to learn more.

Designing a Chatbot for Access Bank Nigeria

Through intensive market research and user testing, ConsumerCentriX helped design a user-friendly chatbot for a leading microfinance bank in Nigeria as part of their strategy to make more digital channels available to their clients. Research and user testing indicated that while COVID-19 has created many challenges for entrepreneurs, it has also made them more open to trying new technology. CCX provided key insights to support the institution in taking steps to bring customers along the journey from in-person interactions to personalized interactions via digital channels. The project was funded by the CDC Group.

Building National Gender Data Ecosystems

The Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership was established in 2014 and is one of the leading voices on women’s financial inclusion data across the world.  After focusing on awareness building and outreach during the partnership’s early years, the next phase of efforts centers around supporting country-level sex-disaggregated supply-side data collection with a specific focus on two stakeholders: financial service providers and policymakers. The holistic ecosystem approach will actively encourage supply side gender data in Nigeria, Kenya, Bangladesh, Honduras, Pakistan, Turkey, Lebanon by 2022. ConsumerCentrix, is supporting the implementation of this second phase.

Enhancing access to finance for refugees through innovation

This summer, ConsumerCentriX joined forces with Roland Berger, Europe’s leading strategy consultancy firm, to identify opportunities for IFC to improve access to finance for refugees in immigration hotspots like Uganda, Jordan, and Colombia. Leveraging years of experience developing financial solutions in emerging markets, ConsumerCentriX conducted an in-depth analysis of financial and social realities facing refugees in their host countries. After extensive stakeholder engagement, ideation for innovative solutions to mobilize private sector resources and virtual Upstream workshops with over 100 attendants from relevant institutions, a clear roadmap for IFC was developed. This roadmap will lead to several pilot projects in 2021 to support refugee entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on growing businesses in the renewable energy sector.  ConsumerCentriX is excited to apply its expertise further in the diaspora space to improve financial outcomes for refugees around the globe.

Uganda Investment Authority

How the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is helping women entrepreneurs outlast the pandemic

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ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

Uganda Investment Authority

The Covid-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Winnie Lawoko-Olwe, Director of SMEs at the Uganda Investment Authority to learn how the Uganda Investment Authority is helping women entrepreneurs through the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Would you kindly introduce yourself and what you do at the Uganda Investment Authority?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe:  My name is Winnie Lawoko-Olwe and I am the Director of SMEs at the Uganda Investment Authority.

Ernest Wasake: The COVID-19 Business Info Hub is looking to focus on how women entrepreneurs have been able not only to survive, but to thrive during the pandemic. Tell us about yourself, and your role at Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). How have you been able to survive and thrive during this pandemic?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: COVID-19 came as a major surprise to everybody. And because of the nature of the Standard Operating Procedures and the activities around the pandemic, it required fast thinking and fast adaptation. As UIA, we immediately conducted research that where a total of about 385 businesses were interviewed. And of these interviewed, about 30 percent were SMEs, and of those 30 percent, we were able to interview 32 percent specifically women.

We know very well that the SME economy of Uganda is a very much a cash economy. The pandemic affected most women and challenged how they balanced finances for the businesses and finances for their families.

The assessment found that the businesses are distressed and needed additional money. The assessment also found that a intervention was needed to help businesses change their models from the direct channel of selling off the street to the effective use of mobile money, networks to deliver your business, and developing business products to what clients need the most.

Under the Rising Woman campaign, Investment Authority is looking at how we can take the women’s businesses into a next level of digitization in terms of marketing their products, in terms of effectively using mobile payments as opposed to cash payments. And we are running trainings in six areas for the newly developed digitization product for the campaign. We are going to be able to come up with a clear product rollout in terms of digitizing and e-commerce adaptation

Ernest Wasake: How has the Investment Authority supported the SME sector during the pandemic?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: In this period of the pandemic, one of the major challenges is that our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have limitations on number of people that we can support. During the first part of the pandemic, our programs were supporting about a maximum of 10 people, thereby limiting outreach numbers. Given these limitations, UIA has started delivering capacity building programs that allow a few leaders from women organizations to be taken through the program and to pass on the lessons to other women. The training currently has narrowed down from entrepreneurial development to marketing and access to markets training programs. We are looking at digitization of business processes and we are also looking at using ICTs.

Ernest Wasake: Do you have testimonies of businesses that have thrived during the pandemic and what lessons can be learned from them?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Yes, we have had businesses that have thrived so far.  Businesses that have thrived have been able to place themselves into the e-commerce platform. We have a number of ladies who are doing sanitizers and foodstuffs that are currently registered on the Zimba Mart (an online e-commerce platform created by ZimbaWomen) I must say that Zimba  Women is one of those women-in-tech initiatives that we think will help and support to take women to the next level, because it is owned by women that can easily understand the dynamics of women and the challenges that women are having. The second group that we work closely with is the Business and Professional Women of Kampala branch who actually access the women groups, identified which is the most appropriate time to be able to help them to sell their products online.

Ernest Wasake: What can be done to increase the level of women entrepreneurship in Uganda?

 Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: To increase the participation and the overall input from women entrepreneurs in Uganda means that we need to be able to identify the supporters or service providers in specific areas so that women activities and growth activities are not duplicated. I want to talk about the three key things that women face: The first is access to effective networks that allow them to grow within different areas of growth.  The second is linkage for growth in terms of the value chain. The third is affordable financing that looks at one’s internal competitiveness.

I know that the Stanbic Bank Incubator Platform is doing quite a bit in terms of getting those value chains together. But I think that if I’m a woman entrepreneur sitting in Busia, where do I go to get that information? And that’s where I think the most important opportunity is – to have a national portal, where every woman can access information where she is able to click networks and be able to access networks that she can work with. And last but not least, is the mentorship for growth – that means that we are looking at women who have excelled within those specific areas, to inspire and lead other women.

Also, I think there’s a missing gap, in terms of specific funds for SME women. If you talk today about the Emyooga(poverty eradication program) which is easily accessible, it requires one to be in a group to access the funds and yet, as an SME you’re not going to join a group. As an SME you need to be identified as a specific business that can walk into any place and is assessed based on your internal competitiveness, the ready market that you have for your product and the support systems that you need to be able to effectively utilize them. So I think those are the key things that we as Uganda Investment Authority are strongly pushing to address through interventions.

Ernest Wasake: What advise have you given to a woman entrepreneur on a personal level to help them grow.

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: OK. On a personal level, I have supported Vantage Communication and Zimba Women. And this is specifically in terms of growing their business and looking at the environment. Both companies have fantastic products and they met the challenges in terms of setting up processes and procedures to manage the internal environment. And the advice here is: you are the entrepreneur, you know the business, you know what you want out of it. But take yourself back and think of growing this business scalability. Can you scale the business to the level you want working as an individual? And if you can, then it’s going to remain a niche product for a few people. And yet the demand for the product is great. The concept that we went through was one, assess your strengths and concentrate on this strength.

Secondly, look at the operatives. If you are taking this unique project out, you have any unique selling proposition. But in order for this proposition to be delivered, what are the steps you need? Do you need a marketing person? Do you need somebody to actually install, you know the uptake? And do you need somebody to do your finances? If you’re able to look at those critical business steps within the business, then it will help you to identify who internally would be the best person to manage it. If you do not have somebody internally, how would you then be able to take that? And that means you are recruiting. Are you able to price the product? Once you price the product, is it right for the market to be able to take it to the market?

I think from this learning perspective, there are two things that entrepreneurs need to know. As an entrepreneur, you do have a drive. You’ve seen the gap. You know that the market needs it. And that’s very important. But in terms of scalability of your product, in terms of taking your business to the market, you then need to look at those critical procedures, internal procedures that will allow you to take the product to the market. And the product will be the same today, tomorrow and the next day. That means there’s a standard of procedure. It’s a unique selling proposition and it’s a unique product that is going out to the market.

Thriving during Covid

Cleaning up after COVID-19: An Interview with Lydia Syson Naiga of NLS Services Limited

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Lydia Syson Naiga, Business Development Manager at NLS Services Limited to understand how her business has weathered through the pandemic and to hear her advice for other women entrepreneurs.

Ernest Wasake: Thank you for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself and describe your business?

Lydia Syson Naiga: My name is Lydia Syson Naiga and NLS Services Limited is our business. We deal with medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, and industrial waste. We pick up medical waste from different hospitals, around Kampala and the rest of the country, Kampala mainly, and take it to our incineration plant for disposal.  As of April, we have been in business for 11 years and currently, we’re employing 52 staff members.

Ernest Wasake: Can you tell us about how much of the market you control and what your business means in terms of its significance in the market.

Lydia Syson Naiga:  We have around 80 percent of the market share. Most of the private hospitals, actually almost all private hospitals are our clients. Recently, we managed to penetrate [to work with] the government referral hospitals.

Ernest Wasake: Let us understand a little bit more about your business. How has NLS waste management fared during the pandemic?

Lydia Syson Naiga: As essential workers, we continued to work through the lockdown because we had to pick up medical waste and there is no way medical waste could be left in the hospitals. I would say we didn’t get really affected because we have never stopped working. The only issue we had was making sure some staff members came to work, given the covid-19 travel restrictions. Some of our staff had to work from home, which wasn’t something we were ready for. That was a bit of a struggle.

 Ernest Wasake: Tell us what practical tools or skills you put in place to survive? What worked and what didn’t?

Lydia Syson Naiga: We just had to make sure we had to be very strict on the protective wear policy. We had to do mass testing every month for all staff members. The fact that our staff actually have to go on the ground and interact in these particular places where we have to actually pick up COVID waste meant we had to be very cautious.

 Ernest Wasake: Is there any other part of your business that you had to change or adjust as a result of COVID, either to increase your business or to protect business?

Lydia Syson Naiga: We have clients that have been struggling because their earning numbers have dropped. This has affected their payments flow, as a result we had to make sure we have money to run the business. You can’t tell a client “because payments are delayed, we can’t pick up your waste.” We had to just work with what resources we had and we made sure we save on every penny because it’s going to be tough ahead. The pandemic has also affected our suppliers, but we managed to get through.

Ernest Wasake: How can businesses position themselves for the times ahead? Now that we’re entering a different phase of the pandemic that will continue to shape the economy?

 Lydia Syson Naiga: The virus isn’t about to end today and It’s not going to end tomorrow. We just have to work with what we have and cut costs if we can. People have to be very careful with their operations and plan because enterprises are closing abruptly due to the effects of the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Could also tell us where do you see NLS Waste Management Services going in the next couple of years?

Lydia Syson Naiga: In the next couple of years, I think we will be the next big waste management company in Uganda and in Africa once we have aligned particular products, that we will roll out.

Ernest Wasake: If you had any personal last message that you can give to women entrepreneurs, what lessons would you share?

Lydia Syson Naiga: Be very clear and be consistent. If you think it’s going to be a walk in the park, it’s never a walk in the park, so it’s persistence and consistency. If you tell someone the contract, say this, it says we shall pick up your waste or shall do this – live within the contract. Don’t go beyond.



Accelerating Financial Inclusion

The Bellagio Working Group: Tackling Digital Financial Inclusion One Zoom Call at a Time

ConsumerCentriX is producing a short blog series on the Bellagio Working Group. This is the first blog in the series. Over the coming weeks and months, stay tuned for new insights into new regulatory laws and technological transformations happening in Nigeria, Indonesia, and Egypt.

By Kavita Bali, Advisor to ConsumerCentriX

In early 2019, ConsumerCentriX thought carefully about how we could make an outsized impact in accelerating financial inclusion. After years of collaborating with regulators around the world through the implementation of various initiatives aimed at increasing access to financial products and services among the un- and under-served, Partner Anna Gincherman kept coming back to the same thought. Innovations in digital financial services happen so fast, yet the same challenges on the ground seem to persist across markets. Many of the solutions to accelerating digital financial inclusion take root in local markets, but there are few fora for policy makers to openly share their challenges and collaborate to jointly problem solve in real time.

With that in mind, in July 2019, ConsumerCentriX convened an intimate group of senior financial sector policymakers and regulators at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center for a week. Senior regulators from three of critical markets—Egypt, Nigeria, and Indonesia—along with digital experts from India, China, and Estonia, joined for a closed-door working session entitled, “Practical Solutions to Accelerating Digital Financial Services for Inclusive Economies.” We chose to include these markets because of their early successes in leveraging technology for financial inclusion and because they represent the greatest potential to enact forward thinking regulations for the greatest number of people.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants commented that the knowledge-sharing and collaboration fostered throughout the week was distinct from any other forum. The interactive discussions void of external distractions were cited as critical to their ability to think differently about the current challenges they are grappling with within their respective markets and offered access to new resources needed to solve these challenges.

Identifying Practical Solutions for Regulators to Accelerate Financial Inclusion

We convened key regulators from Nigeria, Egypt, and Indonesia to share lessons among peers and draw inspiration from digital and policy innovation in India, China and Estonia – resulting roadmaps gave new momentum to financial inclusion.


“I think the brainstorming sessions were the strongest elements of this program. It is more than just having a conversation. You learn how to implement what you’ve learned, and you begin leveraging these new relationships to make an impact in your country,” said Aishah Ahmad, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria

Despite their incredibly busy agendas, participants expressed a desire to reconvene periodically and asked the ConsumerCentriX team to continue to facilitate the group’s collaboration and progress. With generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bellagio Working Group on Digital Financial Inclusion was continued in the spring of 2020 and planned for additional in-person meetings to facilitate continued group problem-solving around issues in digital financial inclusion.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bellagio Working Group has had to shift to fully remote operations. However,  that hasn’t stopped members from collaborating, sharing important lessons and continuing to work together to find viable solutions. From discussions on how to ensure vulnerable communities aren’t further marginalized during the pandemic to sharing recent regulatory changes to improve banking laws to strategizing on how to leverage technologies such as QR codes for improved customer transactions, the Bellagio Working Group is tackling the challenges of advancing financial inclusion in dynamic markets one Zoom call at a time.

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs

The Stanbic Business Incubator enables women entrepreneurs to reach their full potential as business owners

By Ana Singh, Communications & Marketing Manager at ConsumerCentriX
 ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

Through business development services, training, networking events, and mentoring, the Stanbic Business Incubator offers an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurs to protect and grow their businesses. The incubator also provides participants with opportunities to engage with subject matter experts and access markets and finance. By joining the Stanbic Business Incubator, women entrepreneurs can take advantage of opportunities that they may have not otherwise had.

Hudah Tamale is no stranger to pivoting. When she began her business in 2015, she thought she could make money selling cakes. To attract new customers, she started offering herbal teas as a marketing strategy. However, she soon found herself becoming more excited over her tea products. After recognizing where her true passion lay, she shifted her business strategy and started focusing entirely on selling tea.

When the COVID-19 lockdown began, Tamale found herself needing to pivot her business, Nash Royal Tea, again. With social distancing measures in place, she needed to rely more heavily on digital marketing strategies. Luckily, she had already learned many of the skills that she would need through the Stanbic Business Incubator.

Today, she has a digital marketing strategy incorporated into her business plans and maintains an active online presence that has helped her through the pandemic. For women entrepreneurs struggling, she stresses the importance of digitizing. “If you don’t have an online presence right now, you are almost nonexistent in business right now,” she warned.

Women entrepreneurs in Uganda and worldwide have had to face a rapidly changing business environment while still taking care of their children full-time once the schools closed. Even in regular times, women entrepreneurs face well-documented barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Men are more likely to have the right information, training, and guidance to inform their dealings with financial institutions and plan effectively for their businesses in the long-term.

Through business development services, training, networking events, and mentoring, the Stanbic Business Incubator offers an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurs to protect and grow their businesses. The incubator also provides participants with opportunities to engage with subject matter experts and access markets and finance. By joining the Stanbic Business Incubator, women entrepreneurs can take advantage of opportunities that they may have not otherwise had.

“Women entrepreneurs are a great resource to this country from our training we have come to realize that women play a very vital role in how enterprises are run and how enterprises are actually sustained over a long period of time. Our commitment to the support of women especially the women entrepreneurs is one that we cannot deviate from. We have for a long time decided to have a quota set for women entrepreneurs to be able to see them participate and enjoy the benefits of our training program. our commitment, therefore, is not a one-off intervention. Many women have been part of this whole story especially after the realization that the lockdown or COVID was going to impact many businesses for a long time. We’re certain that we can be very much in partnership with a lot of women entrepreneurs to scale them to further their dreams.”  said Tony Otoa, Executive Director, Stanbic Business Incubator Limited.

Meet Rachel Lubega

When she heard about the incubator from a friend, Rachel Lubega had already co-owned her corporate event business, Quality Management Services LTD, for 18 years. However, despite the longevity of her business, she believed she still had room to grow. “I felt excited because I love learning, getting training, and gaining new skills,” she said.

As part of the training, she joined a cohort of service providers that included some of her competitors. Through networking and personal bonding, she began to see her competition as potential business partner. “We even were able to get business together. It was great having to create that kind of relationship with our competitors,” she added.

Not only was she able to create business opportunities through networking, but she became more adept at auditing, bookkeeping, and digital marketing. To the benefit of her business, she transferred many of these new skills she was learning to her employees.

Like Tamale, Lubega found particular value in the seminars on digital marketing. “At the time, we had the website, but it wasn’t very active. But now I know the importance of having an active website.” She added that implementing digital strategies and maintaining a web presence has made a beneficial difference for her business during the pandemic.

As businesses across Uganda adjust to the “new normal”, so has the Stanbic Business Incubator. “We have had to rethink our program, going away from the typical classroom lecture mode into online tutorials and lectures,” said Otoa in a recent interview. He added that the shift made entrepreneurs hopeful because of a shared need for information on financial management, governance, and other issues critical to business survival in an economic downturn.

Participants are still able to network at the Incubator even though the classes are online.

“They introduce themselves at the start of every session and are given provision to state what each of their businesses is about, share experiences, and share their contact information with other participants,” said Nadia Ayaa, Program Coordinator, Stanbic Business Incubator Limited.

The switch from a classroom setting to online tutorials also creates more flexibility for women entrepreneurs, who often balance household responsibilities and business ventures. Instead of going to a classroom, they can access the training at the comfort of their home or office.

For more information about the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited, please call
0312 226 700

Women Entrepreneurs

How the SME Response Clinic addresses gender information asymmetries

By Ana Singh, Communication & Marketing Manager at ConsumerCentriX and Ida Ingabire, Secretariat at New Faces, New Voices Rwanda

Investing in women’s entrepreneurship is good for business and essential for socio-economic growth. Women are more likely than men to invest a higher proportion of their income back into their families and communities; yet, most women-owned businesses across Africa remain stagnant at the micro-level, unable to grow.

The reasons holding them back are well-documented. First, women are less likely to access sufficient financing to grow their businesses, greatly hindered by challenges due to information asymmetries that put them at a distinct disadvantage to their male counterparts. In comparison, men are more likely to have access to the right information, training, and guidance to inform their dealings with financial institutions and plan effectively for their businesses in the long-term.

During “business as usual,” information asymmetry makes it challenging for women entrepreneurs to keep up. During a global pandemic, when updates related to financial products or services and government measures are issued multiple times a day, the information gaps can become even more unbalanced – leaving women entrepreneurs even further behind.

In late March, our team recognized the hardship that all entrepreneurs were facing when finding the right COVID19-related information for their businesses. After noticing there was no centralized platform that housed all the crucial updates happening across Rwanda’s private and public sectors, the SME Response Clinic platform was launched to address this gap and support entrepreneurs with relevant information. ConsumerCentriX, in partnership with Access to Finance Rwanda and the Private Sector Federation of Rwanda, created the website.

After reviewing data of the SME Response Clinic platform’s performance from the first few weeks, the team immediately recognized a gender problem when it came to web traffic. Only 30 percent of all visitors were women. Read this article to learn how we closed the gap. Only 30 percent of all visitors were women. Through further examination and analysis, it became apparent that the gender gap in web traffic was a symptom of the gender-neutral content and promotion of the platform on social media.


Recognizing a Problem 

As a new platform beginning with zero followers, we relied heavily on an aggressive social media strategy. We launched a Twitter campaign and regularly targeted users on Facebook who exhibited entrepreneurial behavior and interests.

However, this social outreach strategy was not reaching women. For Twitter, a look into the data revealed that a staggering 93 percent of accounts using the campaign’s hashtag were men. While the gender gap on Facebook wasn’t as stark, men were still 73 percent more likely to see an advertisement and 80 percent more likely to engage with the content.

Two possible explanations shed light on our limited initial success in reaching women entrepreneurs in Rwanda. First, women in Rwanda are less likely to have access to phones with the internet and are less likely to be digitally literate than their male counterparts. Web traffic data indicates that roughly 80 percent of the SME Clinic website’s visitors access content through a mobile phone – putting women at a clear disadvantage.

The second barrier was the content itself as there was no particular gender lens in our early articles and videos. Instead, by producing only gender-neutral content, we were exacerbating the existing information asymmetries. We knew that we had to urgently switch up our strategy to reach women entrepreneurs with the right information to support their businesses throughout the economic downturn.

Mobilizing women entrepreneurs to access the right information for their businesses

In this video, Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Governor of National Bank of Rwanda and Chairperson of New Faces, New Voices Rwanda, and Ida Ingabire, Secretariat of New Faces New Voices Rwanda, explain the barriers women face when accessing information for their businesses and how SME Response Clinic can bridge that gap.

Developing Content through Partnerships

To create more compelling and meaningful content for women entrepreneurs, the SME Response Clinic partnered with New Faces New Voices Rwanda. From their own experience engaging with women entrepreneurs, New Faces New Voices emphasized the importance of making information available online and the necessity of mobilizing women to access the knowledge through a personal touch.

Though the partnership with New Faces New Voices, the SME Response Clinic delivered new content specifically for women entrepreneurs. Once finalized, we promoted on Facebook, specifically targeting women users who exhibited entrepreneurial interests.

However, to be seen as a platform that women could trust required a more involved personal touch. We decided to produce a Facebook event specifically for women entrepreneurs. The event allowed women entrepreneurs to ask high-level government officials, including Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, a Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, and private sector leaders about new government measures in place to support their business survival and growth.

While previous events hosted by the SME Response Clinic were held in English, the decision was made to have the conversation in Kinyarwanda at New Faces New Voices’ recommendation. By using the native dialect of Rwanda, there was a shared goal to make the event more accessible for women entrepreneurs, particularly those at the micro-level.

To increase attendance, New Faces New Voices reached out directly to their member through phone calls, bulk SMS, email and WhatsApp group messages. This outreach effort then turned into technical assistance support during the event, as staff helped users who were having issues accessing the live stream video. In the end, the panelists’ star power and the hard work of the organizers paid off. Even though only women received promotions for the event, the total number of users who viewed the live session outnumbered the turnout of our previous events on Facebook Live.


Final Thoughts

The event’s success meant that for the first time since the launch of the website, we were able to achieve gender parity in our weekly visitors. In the weeks and months following the event, we have learned that we can continue to achieve parity in weekly visitors if we publish content and produce events specifically for women. If we do not publish this targeted content, the gender gap returns without fail.  While this overall shift in strategy requires more work and depends on successful external partnerships, women entrepreneurs’ benefits are too significant to ignore. In the coming months, the SME Response Clinic will continue to engage women entrepreneurs with events and relevant content for their businesses.

Key Takeaways from the SME Response Clinic

By Anna Gincherman, Partner at ConsumerCentrix, and Jean Bosco Iyacu, Director of Programs at Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR)

With 148,092 registered Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Rwanda representing 99.7 percent of the businesses according to the Integrated Business Enterprise Survey (2017) by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), this sector plays a pivotal role in the country’s socio-economic development. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, this key driver of growth for Rwanda became imperiled as MSMEs across the country faced disruptions in the supply chain, demand and economic uncertainty.

To support entrepreneurs in Rwanda struggling in their time of need,  Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) partnered with ConsumerCentriX and Rwanda Private Sector Federation on the SME Response Clinic. The platform was launched on May 3rd, a little over a month after Rwanda entered lockdown.

The goal of the digital platform is to address information asymmetry through the establishment of a centralized location for MSMEs to learn about the new policies, regulations, support structures and product innovations developing in response to the crisis and essential financial advice and business training. For all articles, simple language and a straightforward tone is used, and content is made available in both English and Kinyarwanda (the only local language that is used by all Rwandans).

However, as we all know, a website alone is not enough to drive traffic. To increase outreach, a Facebook page and Twitter account and campaign were launched the same week as the website. An Instagram profile was created a few weeks later.  Since the launch of these channels, content promoting the website has been viewed on Social Media 4,032,652 times.

Beginning with no followers and an ambitious goal of becoming the go-to site for entrepreneurs in Rwanda during Covid-19 meant investing in advertisements. The promotional strategy differed by channel. For Twitter, the SME Response Clinic originally partnered with influencers on a campaign before switching to a strictly organic promotional strategy. For Facebook, there is a heavy focus on article promotions by directly targeting small and medium business owners. In addition to driving traffic to web articles, the content and advertisement strategy evolved as results proved Facebook to be a popular channel for amassing video and live event views.

As the platform grew so did the list of partners. The SME Response Clinic joined forces with the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda, New Faces New Voices Rwanda, African Management Institute, Argidius Foundation, Rwanda Bankers’ Association, and Tustawi. These partnerships ensure that the content on the website reflects diverse perspectives. Partners also play a critical role in promoting web content to their external audiences.

Through these partnerships, three Facebook live webinars were organized focusing on the banking and microfinance sectors response to the Covid-19 pandemic and on how the Economic Recovery Fund and other relief measures put in place by the Government of Rwanda would benefit women entrepreneurs during and post Covid-19 pandemic.


Key Takeaways

The last ten weeks have been a period of intense testing and optimizing. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Content in Kinyarwanda is critical to reach the target audience. It performs better than content in English for most topics, particularly for articles on government measures and articles on the banking and microfinance sectors’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Women need to be explicitly targeted in order to ensure gender parity. At present, 48 percent of visitors are women despite an initial gender gap that heavily skewed toward men visitors. Achieving gender parity with traffic views meant actively creating pieces of content for women entrepreneurs and targeting them specifically on Facebook. Given the additional challenges many women entrepreneurs face in general and how they have been disproportionately affected as a result of Covid-19, this demonstrates the platform’s value by offering much-needed support for women entrepreneurs.
  • Social media channels are effective ways to market the SME Response Clinic, with Facebook yielding the best results by far accounting for 64 percent of all referral traffic and reaches over 170,000 users per month. The SME Response Clinic is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and uses both organic and paid advertising to promote content. While the Twitter campaign yielded higher levels of impressions, Facebook proved to be significantly more cost-effective when it came to engagements and website clicks.
  • Video is essential for keeping users engaged with the content. Data from Facebook suggests that people are more likely to watch an entire video then click on an article and a recent survey on the SME Clinic conducted also revealed that users are twice as likely to prefer content in a video or animation format than in a written article format.
  • Web traffic and social media performance is very closely correlated to the publication of new content and event promotion. Weekly reviews of visitors and views indicate that it is critical to post new content and promote events as often as possible to drive visits to the portal.  
  • Strong partnerships are key to the platform’s success in that they bring perspectives of their members and constituents to inform content development. Also, they are vital in supporting outreach by sending targeted information via SMS and WhatsApp to their networks.

While the lockdown has slowly been lifted, the economic consequences of the pandemic can still be felt by micro, small, and medium enterprises across Rwanda. These key takeaways will continue to inform the content and promotional strategy for SME Response Clinic as the platform continues to provide information and resources for entrepreneurs in Rwanda coming to terms with the new normal.