Home Human Impact Marie Ange Mukagahima and Zima Health Group: A Highlight of Absa InspireMe Conference

Marie Ange Mukagahima and Zima Health Group: A Highlight of Absa InspireMe Conference

by Femme Staff

Today in our ongoing series about the recently concluded Absa InspireMe Conference, we take a look at the story of Zima Health Group from Rwanda. Zima Healthy Group derives its name from the Kinyarwanda word “ubuzima,” meaning “life.” The company is dedicated to producing organic food products, with a diverse catalog that includes extra virgin oils from avocado, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, seeded snacks like chia seeds, sesame seeds, and cashew nuts, fortified pumpkin seed flour, and healthy pumpkin cookies.

The driving force behind Zima is Marie Ange Mukagahima, a Rwandan entrepreneur whose journey started as a young university student with a passion to help her community. In a testimony of resilience and hard work, she is now a successful businesswoman and managing director of her own venture.

In 2017, during her final year of university, Marie observed how her community would neglect pumpkins, despite their ready availability and immense nutritional benefits. She saw untapped potential in their use and especially for the seeds which are usually just thrown away, and here she started developing a prototype for her idea. This prototype led her to win the Rwanda Youth Connect Award and

It is with the prize money from this that she was able to launch her enterprise. She founded Zima Healthy Group to benefit both her customers and her community with high quality micronutrients available to everyone. Her products not only offer nutritious food but also have medicinal properties, such as pumpkin seeds that she says help those suffering from prostate cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Starting the business was not easy. Marie faced difficulties in acquiring the necessary machinery and packaging to bring her products to market. She persevered especially with invaluable support from people and organizations around her. She is particularly thankful to the SheTrades Hubs of which she is a member. SheTrades, a platform that was launched in 2016 by the International Trade Centre for women to use to share information about their companies, products and services, and to connect with buyers. For Marie their support included exposure through global exhibitions which they sponsored for her to attend, product presentation refinement, and crucial business decision-making guidance. All these would have been difficult for her as a young entrepreneur to access on her own. It is through SheTrades that Marie was able to attend Absa Kenya’s InspireMe conference.

Today, Zima Healthy Group has grown significantly, currently with a workforce of 28 people, the majority of whom are women. She has a large factory in Kigali where all the raw materials are processed and packed before being sent out to retailers. The company supplies all major supermarkets across Rwanda and aims to expand into the Kenyan market as well as other markets in Africa and beyond.

As mentioned earlier, Marie’s business model is designed to empower local communities. She sources raw materials from local farmers through cooperatives, providing them with training for best agricultural practices and connecting them with partners to enhance their farming skills and livelihoods. While the majority of her suppliers are from her home country of Rwanda, she has begun sourcing from across Africa through the East African farmers community. For instance, she is now sourcing cashew nuts from Tanzania.

The ripple effects of her enterprise are clear in the communities she sources from. By creating a permanent market for local produce for instance, she reduces post-harvest losses and helps alleviate farmer poverty. Her approach ensures that the benefits of her business are felt throughout the local economy, providing financial stability and new opportunities for growth.

Marie’s advice to young entrepreneurs is that fear is normal, but if something is truly your passion you should go forward and do it with all your heart. She believes that business should be driven not only by profits, but also by passion and a love for the community. Even now Marie still faces challenges after seven years in business and she considers this a part of business growth. She continues to learn and improve her skills, demonstrating that continuous growth is a key aspect of successful entrepreneurship.

Marie’s story is an inspiring example of how one individual’s passion and dedication can drive positive change in their community. Through Zima Healthy Group, she has created a successful business that not only provides nutritious food but also uplifts local farmers. Her journey is a powerful reminder that with determination, support, and a heart for the community, significant impact is possible. Her story and her presence here in Nairobi fits perfectly into the essence of Absa Bank’s InspireMe program which is to build new business linkages and expand economic opportunities for women-led businesses from across the continent.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.