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Denied loans twice, Agripreneur advocates for youth funding to realize their dreams

After being denied a loan twice to support her thriving business due to a lack of collateral, Agripreneur Marie Ange Mukagahima advocates for financial institutions to support young entrepreneurs, who have innovative ideas and a ready market but often lack the resources to meet demand.

Back in 2017, after entrepreneurial training, Mukagahima had an idea to start a local business that would benefit her local community while also making her profit.

Growing up in the district of Muhanga, Mukagahima knew that while lots of pumpkins are grown in her community, the crop only fetched low prices, and is often considered “women’s food”. She extensively researched how she could turn pumpkin seeds into cakes and other pastries.

She presented her idea to her parents who were reluctant to give her a rich amount of money to bring it to life. They however gave her 3,000 Rwf, to make her first cake out of the pumpkin seeds.

She began to search the internet for recipes, especially how to make bread from pumpkin. To experiment with these recipes, she asked a nearby bakery to allow her to use its oven to bake pumpkin bread.

“I went to a bakery and told them what I wanted to do and they laughed at me. But I showed them what I wanted and we made the cakes,” she says.

After baking the first batch, she gave samples to her parents and they liked the cake. They then gave her more money to make more cakes. She then applied to the DOT Rwanda’s Social Enterprise Competition in 2017, which she won and got more money to fund her idea.

In the same year, Mukagahima emerged as an outstanding young entrepreneur in the Southern Province at the YouthConnekt Awards. As the winner of the competition, she was hosted in an incubator owned by the Workforce Development Authority (WDA), given an oven and a solar dryer for her business, and awarded a cash prize of Rwf 1 million (US$1,116).

She also won the National YouthConnekt Awards and walked away with Rwf 5 million ($5,579). She used all this money to set up her business and left the incubator in early 2018.

She has now a fully functioning bakery, “Now I have a big business that makes the pastries, extra virgin oil from pumpkin seeds and avocado oil.”

Even though her business grew, the Agripreneur says that there is still a long way to go and more support needed which she has not seen from financial institutions.

Mukagahima applied for a loan from a financial institution for two consecutive years without being able to secure one even if her idea was a good one and she had the potential to widen her market.

“If I have been able to survive for 5 years, you see my market, I have customers, I have a great demand that I cannot supply and you are asking me for a collateral, I do not have,” she says.

She believes that financial institutions should adjust their policies in order to make sure that young people get the support that they need.

Straight out of Twitter