Entrepreneurs: Walking the walk for UAE women

MasterCard has teamed up with the Dubai Business Women Council to launch Ro'Ya - an initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among women living in the UAE.

MasterCard’s Ngozi Megwa, the vice president for business development and key relationships in the Middle East and North Africa. Jaime Puebla / The National
Powered by automated translation

The global payments company MasterCard and the Dubai Business Women Council recently unveiled its Ro’Ya initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among women in the UAE.

Aspiring businesswomen can submit their ideas or business plans for consideration via the DBWC website with the eight most promising entrants being selected for the scheme. They will receive funds and mentoring to develop their enterprise.

MasterCard’s Ngozi Megwa, the vice president for business development and key relationships in the Middle East and North Africa, explains further.

How did this initiative come about?

We are very, very focused on driving diversity and inclusion at a global level. Within MasterCard there are about eight different diversity groups, which are basically a collection of individuals with common interests based on gender, race or other criteria. Within those, there is a group called the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN). There are about 1,600 members globally and the purpose of this group is to try to drive or enable career development or personal development for women in the organisation. This initiative leads very nicely into that. In the UAE, it’s a very SME-dominant environment so it’s on the agenda of the Dubai Government. We are interested in driving this and it’s an opportune moment.

What can the eight women who are selected expect from the programme?

This is targeted towards existing or aspiring women entrepreneurs. What we have seen is a lot of women who have a great idea but do not necessarily have either the knowledge or the confidence to push it to a full-blown business proposal. So the coaching and mentoring sessions will be targeted towards that. We’ll really try to help them to fine tune their business plans in such a way that it leads them to a fully fledged business proposal that has considered all the key elements: target markets, customers, financial analysis, competitor analysis. On top of that, there is the partnership with the Dubai Business Women Council; so we are going to be running some other coaching sessions for the candidates that didn’t get shortlisted with the same objective in mind of how to go from a business idea to a proper plan.

Are you open to all sorts of business ideas?

There are certain broad criteria that we will be looking at: how viable is this business opportunity? Is this a sustainable model that will actually generate revenue? Will it create jobs? And then we will be looking at how innovative the idea is.

How much are the cash prizes?

If you fall into the eight shortlisted candidates you will get some kind of financing. There are three top prizes: the first is for US$50,000, the second for $30,000 and the third for $20,000. The other five shortlisted participants get a $5,000 award.

Will there be any long-term guidance?

One of the key goals we have for this programme is for it to be sustainable; so we don’t want after 12 months just to all pat ourselves on the back and stop. We want to work very actively with the top three candidates to really bring their business ideas over the line. We’re really thinking of it as some kind of incubation process … and this is where we want the longevity to be. We will still be running this coaching and mentoring for all applicants; it won’t be at the same level as the top three but there will still be some ongoing support.

How long will the programme last?

We haven’t quite figured out what the timeline is but our main objective to get the business over the line.

What does MasterCard get out of this?

Inclusivity and diversity are a top, top agenda for us globally. This scheme demonstrates that we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk as well. So it’s a reinforcement of our beliefs in driving and fostering entrepreneurship among women. Also, going back to the business resource groups that we have internally there will be a lot of participation especially within the WLN. So these candidates will also have 1,600 women across the company from a networking persecutive. Even giving them access to this pool of women to validate their ideas I think is very useful.

How important has mentorship been to your career?

In business there is both formal and informal mentoring and I think I’ve had a bit of both. They achieve different objectives. MasterCard has a formal mentorship programme in place, not just restricted to women. The formal mentorship programme has helped me in terms of trying to advance my career, [decide] what role I want to go into in the future. The informal has been very useful in terms of things like how to make day-to-day business decisions and what approach to take.