SHE is one of Rwanda’s successful and young entrepreneurs-attracting the attention of political and business leaders-including Strive Masiyiwa. Twenty six year old Christelle Kwizera’s rise on the entrepreneurial ladder came after she won a Jack Ma award for her work-helping people get access to clean water in Rwanda.
Jack Ma is a Chinese billionaire and co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. Kwizera came third and walked away with USD100 000, an award that caught the attention of Rwanda president-Paul Kagame.
The Jack Ma awards were held in November last year in Ghana.
“We had a one hour event where we shared our stories and a Q&A with the audience. I follow him (Strive) vividly and I have learnt so much from him. He was a judge meant to give an entrepreneur a prize.
He asked me the first question which was about engineering so he got me right into my comfort zone. Beyond that, he understands the challenge of growing big. He really has kept his doors open and connected us to his network.”
Kwizera is a mechanical engineer.
She said, “As soon as I came home from the Jack Ma awards, the president (Kagame) and Strive Masiyiwa organised a Youth Town Hall to celebrate me and others and they got to hear what we do and gave us advice. These are big things where our work is being recognised at a higher level.”
Masiyiwa is a Zimbabwean billionaire- founder and executive chairman of the telecommunications, technology and renewable energy company-Econet Global.
Kwizera applauded the role President Kagame is doing to create an environment for young entrepreneurs to do their best.
“In terms of what’s happening in Rwanda, President Kagame has said he wants young people to be on the high table.
He is creating many avenues for young people, for example, at the National Dialogue which happens every year-young people are always invited to have the front seat and ask questions that get addressed” she said.
Kwizera talked to Zimobile-yesterday- during the Shared Value Africa Initiative breakfast meeting held by the Stanbic Bank Incubator Hub in Harare-Zimbabwe.
The Jack Ma Award was the inaugural entrepreneurship award which was organised by the Jack Ma Foundation. The Chinese billionaire has committed USD10 million for the next 10 years where every year the foundation select 10 entrepreneurs who share USD1 million.
The award is looking for African entrepreneurs who are business heroes, create impact and have the potential of inspiring a whole new generation of African entrepreneurs.