I am 17 years old, with a baccalaureate in economics as my sole possession. I work in customer service at Canal+ television station where I envision a wonderful business opportunity: create the first TV guide, as well as broaden the editorial line towards the urban culture of the 90s. I have a major asset: A promising market of thousands of Canal+ subscribers.
While at university, I concurrently work on my project which by then I forecast the funding needed at 5000€. I meet with a banker, another and another, upon meeting with the third banker, it is not without pain that I adjust to a barbaric new lexicon: ‘guarantee’, ‘collateral’, ‘property asset’, and ‘title deeds’ with watermarks saying: “young girl, be on your way. This is real life!”
I remember as if it were yesterday, the first disappointment of an aspiring entrepreneur, of being mortified that I had not been able to convince my interlocutors with my determination, my energy, my word as a woman (yes, that!), which more than my business plan, at least in my world, were valid and worthy guarantees.
I remember so clearly my mother’s encouragement, I particularly remember the following day when we took a solemn trip to the bank, and etched our signatures at the bottom of countless pages. I remember the sudden weight of responsibility!
I also recall my amazement as I looked at this woman, recently widowed, become a joint guarantor for her child. An ambitious young girl, granted, but nonetheless exceedingly “young” and very much a “girl”, adding to the already many challenges when you speak of entrepreneurship.
I will remember for the rest of my life, the meaning and the scope of this gesture. In a context where she brutally inherits the sole custodianship of the material and emotional wellbeing of six children, my mother pledges her modest teacher’s salary as a sublime proof of love and faith! That day, I promise myself: S.U.C.C.E.E.D for this woman, at the very least. And for all other women, for whom I yearn to one day offer the chance I received. It is no longer just in the name of love, but also in the name of the dream. For as we know, to accomplish a dream, first you must dream.
As a widely known fact, Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs, listed at 29%. This is undoubtedly because African women have no other choice but to embody their dreams, to live out their highest aspirations with optimism, fierceness and resilience.
After many failures and a few honourable successes, I subsequently created in 2014 “Entreprenarium Foundation” to fulfil a promise made to myself 20 years prior. In that respect, a brilliant team works discreetly and tirelessly towards realizing the uplifting mission of helping African women to create and develop innovative businesses. These women determinedly contribute towards the prosperity of their families, communities, countries, and therefore the continent!
To date we are delighted to have impacted 1,861 beneficiaries across Africa, funded 35 projects and invested more than 1 million Euros of private funding to achieve our mission. At Entreprenarium we are proud to be the continent’s first philanthropic accelerator, with women as our primary target.
This is my story and the dream continues. I also dreamt of an African story, African as defined by our values of sharing and of solidarity. As none can claim “a monopoly on matters of the heart” I questioned my own journey in order to identity key role players. These would be primarily men. In my direct circle, I have observed the following: the upward trajectory of many women is often the result of visionary and courageous men. Hence, I took my pilgrim’s staff, travelled across man’s world and preached the following: “The battle for Africa’s transformation will be won only if we work TOGETHER to unleash the potential of women!”
And with these men, I make a journey of consent rather than conversion.
“Men Invest In Women” is the culmination to this journey. An unprecedented initiative crystallizes the commitment of 50 men, African leaders, into a fund of 25 million euros exclusively destined to finance projects driven by women. Through the implementation of this project, I cannot help but see it as a tribute, a declaration and gratitude. Above all, I see a celebration of humanity that transcends gender in order to fulfil our common destiny.
If their decision to trust me says something about me, it certainly says more about them.
Fifty Africans replied “yes” and now embrace the essence of philanthropy and the spirit of investing.
My name is Kristine Ngiriye.
My surname means “at the service of her community”.
Kristine Ngiriye is a serial entrepreneur, a venture philanthropist, and an advisor to the most influential business and political leaders across Africa.
She is the Founder and CEO of KN &Partners, a boutique consulting firm offering specialized and diverse services to governments and businesses such as Political Marketing, Investment Promotion, International Business Development and CSR Policies. Previously she led the Central Africa regional office of Performances Group, the leading management consulting firm in Francophone Africa. Earlier she was a Hill and Knowlton associate covering West Africa region. She is the founder of Entreprenarium Foundation, which provides business support and access to finance to women and young entrepreneurs on the African continent. This year it launched the «MenInvestInWomen » Fund, a 25 million euros investment platform aimed at engaging African men as agents of change for gender equality.