During the 11 years the Mitro family spent living in Africa, they were struck by the incredible talent and entrepreneurial spirit of female artisans. They were also struck by a glaring problem: these women, without access to markets to sell their goods or the education needed to run their businesses, were living in poverty with few ways out. The solution? Father and son duo Tom and Matt Mitro founded Indego Africa in 2007.
For the past 10 years Indego Africa has brought hope to over 1,000 women and 33 artisan groups across Rwanda and Ghana. In 2010 the company secured its first order with Ralph Lauren and in 2014 launched the Leadership Academy in Rwanda. Olive Mukabuzizi a member of the Covanya Cooperative in Rwanda that partners with Indego said, “Before Indego, I felt like a forgotten person, but now I feel like I am useful to society because I can produce something. I am no longer a consumer; I can contribute.”
On the 10th Anniversary of Indego Africa Deirdre King, Creative Director reflects on the support USAID East Africa has provided to Indego Africa throughout the years: “The support of USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub (the Hub) in our early days was essential. We were able to focus on and accelerate our growth with their support and sponsorship for things like trade shows, buyer trips, client connections and introduction and general advice and counsel. They were an entity that we could call on in so many ways when we needed guidance and industry insight.”
The answer for the women who have partnered with Indego has been the belief that Indego can help shape their futures and their family’s futures through employment opportunities and education. Elizabeth Yankurije remembers that, “In the past, women couldn’t run businesses or have the same jobs men have.” Indego has changed that. Now, Elizabeth and other women, “are confident and ready to take the lead.” They are role models in their villages and cooperatives, and as stated by Donatha Tuyishimire can “motivate and encourage other people to develop themselves and not just accept life as it is, but look to the future for other opportunities”.
The over the past 10 years the economic and social impact on Indego’s partner artisans have been substantial. The number of the artisans they work with have gone from under 100 in 2008 to over 1000 in 2017.
1. Ninety-three percent of their artisan partners have reported increased income this year;
2. 86% of their artisan partners in Rwanda and 50% of their artisan partners in Ghana save money for the future;
3. 78% of Indego’s artisan partners in Rwanda and 33% of their artisan partners in Ghana have a bank account;
4. 88% of Indego’s artisan partners in Ghana who don’t have formal bank accounts plan to open one in the near future; and
5. 15% of Indego’s artisan partners in Rwanda who don’t have formal bank accounts participate in small community savings groups.
Gains over the years:
1. 98% of Indego’s partners in Rwanda and 82% of their partners in Ghana have health insurance for their entire families. In 2012, only 81% of our partners had health insurance.
2. 90% of Indego’s partners in Ghana and 56% of their partners in Rwanda have electricity. In 2008, only 11% of our partners had electricity in their homes.
3. 60% of Indego’s partners in Rwanda and 50% of their partners in Ghana have access to clean water in their homes. In 2016, only 19% of their partners had access to clean water in their homes. That’s over a 200% increase from last year.
4. 100% of Indego’s partners in Ghana and 90% of their partners in Rwanda can afford to send all or most of their children to school. In 2009, only 50% of their partners could afford to send all or most of their children to school.
“It has been a pleasure to see Indego Africa grow over these last 10 years. They continue to set an example for successful socio-economic business models in East Africa,” said Llenay Ferreti, Home Decor and Accessory Consultant for USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub. “We have seen Indego Africa grow to an esteemed development organization, respected both in the US and Rwanda. At the Hub we have worked with Indego Africa over the years in providing trade show opportunities, buyers mission trips, including Anthropologie and Eileen Fisher, and technical support programs helping to train and provide market knowledge to the organization and the women they serve in Rwanda."
Indego Africa demonstrates that hard work, commitment and belief in the women they serve are the building blocks for successful trade interactions between the US and Rwanda.
Photo credit: Brittany Barb, Marketing & Brand Manager for Indego Africa