Mobile kiosks, a stepping stone to women entrepreneurship

Ared or African Renewable Energy Distributor made a name for itself by the development of mobile solar kiosks throughout Rwanda. In addition to providing a service to the most isolated populations, such as charging phones, mobile kiosks operate as mini-franchises and provide a source of income. An effective way to develop business creation, particular for women.

7:30. Kigali. Entrance to a bus station. Claudine opens her business. Or rather unfold it, in a strategic location where many potential customers pass. Her mobile kiosk was designed by Ared. A start-up founded in 2013 by Henry Nakarundi, a Rwandan who left for the United States to study before returning home before starting this social company. Made with a few walls and a roof, these kiosks equipped with solar collectors allow people, especially isolated villagers, to recharge their mobile phones. Given that 74% of Rwandans have a mobile phone but only 35% of them have access to electricity, the tool is important. Especially since the concept has evolved since its launch. It also today allows access to wifi, transfer money, and offers administrative services through a partnership with the government platform Iremo.

Women, a priority

Previously designed for the disabled, many in a country still marked by genocide, the target of the project has now focused on women. «We are targeting the category of the population that are more in need», says Nasser Kanesa, Ared’s Business Development Manager. «By targeting women, we are reaching out to more people and helping bridge the gap between men and women. Women struggle to access capital to start a business while they have a lot of responsibilities to carry out in their homes.» Anxious to have a greater social impact, Ared now recruits exclusively women who, like Claudine, are trained before being equipped.

A revenue generating activity

«I got interested in this project because it allows us to have a revenue generating activity without an initial capital,» says Claudine (her age would be a plus to represent it) while serving her customers. «For me, it is very simple and I am beginning to meet my goals as a woman and a mother. I wanted to contribute to the revenue of my family. My husband shouldered alone this charge. A, today I bring my contribution too.» According to the system set up by Ared, a form of micro-franchise, Claudine manages her business. She gives 25% of her income to the company and keeps the rest. If she does not reveal her monthly turnover, she confirms to earn «enough» today.

Target: 70% of women

From now on, eleven Ared mobile kiosks are deployed in Kigali and thirty-eight across the country. Each kiosk is managed by an agent. «Our target is to be present across the country with 800 agents and 70 percent women, » says Nasser Kanesa before stressing: «We are not looking for profitability. It is the feature of a social enterprise, the profit made is not for the company but for the whole community.» The recruitment process is very simple: «You come to sign a contract, understand the business, then you sit for an exam, a multiple choice questionnaire. You just need to know how to read and write. Then, we evaluate your will, your motivations. At the end of a ten-minute oral test, you can be recruited, if you are convincing. In general, they women take the test without a problem. It is important to note in Rwanda, even if we are poor, we do not beg, out of pride. You will be told: I am poor but I do not want to beg. Give me the means to work and earn my bread» and that is what Ared proposes. Access to a revenue generating activity, dignity.

Regional presence

Praised by business owners in the region, the concept must be extended to neighboring countries. «This deployment will be done with the same economic model as the one in Rwanda,» says Nasser. «We are in talks with the World Bank for a partnership that will enable us to develop a new service, tax payment via the mobile kiosk. »