Name: Francine Munyaneza
Company Name: MUNYAX ECO Ltd.
Designation: CEO & Founder
Welcome to the HER Success Series, where we spotlight remarkable women shaping the landscape of entrepreneurship. Today, we are privileged to feature Francine Munyaneza, the visionary Rwandan CEO and Founder of MUNYAX ECO. Francine’s entrepreneurial journey is deeply rooted in her personal story, from her upbringing in Europe to experiencing energy challenges as a refugee in DRC. Her globetrotting experiences, working in the humanitarian sector, further illuminated the pervasive issue of energy access. Fueled by a commitment to addressing this challenge and mitigating the impacts of climate change, Francine made the bold decision to leave her role at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and founded MUNYAX ECO Ltd. With a dual mission of providing access to clean energy and empowering women and youth, Francine’s leadership exemplifies resilience and determination. Join us as we explore her journey, the milestones achieved with MUNYAX ECO, and her aspirations for a cleaner and more inclusive future.
Could you share your personal journey in becoming an entrepreneur and what inspired you to pursue your current business?
Well, the idea of founding Munyax Eco is linked to my life story. I was born and raised partly in Europe. Then later I moved back to Rwanda, and then to DRC, growing up as a refugee, there were challenges to accessing electricity. Again 30 years later, during my globetrotting across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, I was working in the humanitarian sector. I noticed the same energy access challenges and at that time, I was even mature enough to see and understand all the negative impacts of climate change. Therefore, I decided to resign from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and took my savings to start my business venture that would provide access to clean energy. That was the birth of Munyax Eco Ltd.!
How have your background and life experiences influenced the mission and values of your company, and the impact you aim to make in the world?
I think this question is quite similar to the previous, but I would add that the energy challenges I faced/noticed since childhood and other events that happened in my personal life made me realize 2 things: 1) Energy is the backbone of many development and business activities, having it from a clean source (like solar) is the deal for the future. 2) Women would be productive and powerful if allowed to grow by empowering them with the right knowledge and skills to boost their confidence.
With my determination and desire to contribute to the development of my country and Africa, I made sure that my company would consider both points – to provide access to clean energy and foster women’s participation and leadership.
What are some of the achievements or milestones in your business journey so far? Can you share an example of a project or initiative that you’re most proud of?
MUNYAX ECO is my greatest achievement so far, and the achievements are so many, but here are some milestones:
- 2014 – Signing of the Solar Rwanda Program agreement with the Rwanda Energy Group;
- 2018 – 40KWp Solar hybrid (hydro) mini-grid PV plant with hydro, installed in Karusi – Burundi (Funded by the EU);
- Nov 2022 – MUNYAX ECO was a finalist at the ABH competition winning a 100,000 USD award;
- Nov 2023 – completed the Stanford Seed Transformation Program which resulted in a Transformation plan
- Jul 2023 – Opening of MUNYAX Eco’s subsidiary in BURUNDI and gaining our first biggest tender in Burundi.
- Today 60% of MUNYAX ECO staff are women despite the male domination in the solar energy sector.
Can you describe the challenges you faced during your entrepreneurial journey? Did you encounter any specific gender-specific challenges? How did you overcome them?
Challenges were and will always be there, and they are good because they stimulate innovation and creativity. Some of them are manageable, while others are difficult to overcome, but still, you find a way to bypass them and adapt.
The most important one is limited access to finance and inflation (worsened by the COVID-19/Ukraine crisis). As a woman entrepreneur, it was not easy to evolve in a male-dominated sector, but when you have a clear vision and determination, it keeps you moving.
Our strategies to overcome challenges include partnership (syndicate) with different stakeholders and institutions (both private and public), diversification of products, seeking alternative sources of revenue, networking, collaboration with business advisers, integrating high tech, etc.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur that you would like to pass on to others considering a similar path?
I would advise them to believe in themselves first, align their business idea with local and global agenda/policies, think out of the box, look beyond their current struggles, and take risks worth taking.
In short, “It is not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”, from Rocky Balboa.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for the future and how do you plan to continue making a difference through your work?
Since MUNYAX ECO aspires to become a key player in accelerating access and adoption of clean energy solutions in Africa while fostering women/youth participation, it is one of our goals to extend our activities across Africa, promote women/youth inclusion/participation, start a manufacturing unit for solar equipment set up a gender-sensitive training center, and improve/increase high-tech integration in our operations.
As we conclude this edition of the HER Success Series, Francine Munyaneza’s impactful journey with Munyax Eco serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs. Her dedication to addressing energy challenges, coupled with a steadfast commitment to empowering women, showcases the transformative power of purpose-driven entrepreneurship. Through a myriad of achievements, from signing impactful agreements like the Solar Rwanda Program to expanding operations into Burundi, Francine exemplifies resilience in overcoming challenges, including financial constraints and gender biases. The lessons she imparts—believing in oneself, aligning with global agendas, and embracing challenges as opportunities for innovation—resonate as valuable insights for those considering a similar path. As Munyax Eco continues to strive for a cleaner, more inclusive future, Francine’s visionary leadership paves the way for a sustainable impact across Africa. Stay tuned for more empowering stories in the HER Success Series.
About MUNYAX ECO
Established in 2013, MUNYAX ECO is a Rwandan company at the forefront of solar energy and energy efficiency. The company’s incredible work has been recognized locally and internationally with valuable prizes & awards as it impacted nearly 1,000,000 beneficiaries, reduced carbon emissions by over 5,000 tons annually, created 30 permanent jobs (majority of women in a male-dominated environment), and over 200 indirect jobs. Furthermore, the company has successfully done energy efficiency consultancy services including energy auditing and feasibility studies for PV projects in Rwanda and Burundi. Founded and led by CEO Francine Munyaneza, MUNYAX ECO combines business acumen with environmental responsibility. Francine, with 15 years of global experience in top corporations and humanitarian organizations, steers the company toward impactful renewable energy initiatives as well as women’s and youth empowerment. With a multicultural team dedicated to climate change and energy efficiency, MUNYAX ECO continues to make a significant mark in the Great Lakes region.