Rwanda plans to fund innovative ICT projects to the tune of Rwf700 billion as the country looks to becoming the region’s technology hub.
The fund will officially be launched this year during the World Economic Forum to take place in Kigali in May. This could be the biggest fund established to promote ICT entrepreneurship in the country’s history.
The fund comes after some of the issues of ICT funding were raised at the 2015 Transform Africa Summit. The government will contribute about Rwf200 billion and the rest is expected to come from private sector players.
Rwanda has made strides in creating innovation space and policies for the youth which has seen some innovations like M-Ahwii, Tohoza, HeHe Ltd, however financial support has been a challenge.
Such funding will be an answer to some tech innovators at the Kigali-based Knowledge Lab (KLab), a local innovation and entrepreneurship hub, where over 470 tech enthusiasts are either building new apps or Internet of Things (IOT) according to KLab Manager, Pacifique Dusabimana.
Aline Uwase, a software developer and two other students have had to wait longer to build a prototype of the Cash Power mobile phone interactive app due to lack of funds.
“The application is good and it is a solution to the electricity issues. When we pitch it to investors they asked for a working prototype, but we have failed to raise the money,” Ms Uwase said.
Rwanda’ Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, says government is asking the private sector to get on board and make this fund a success with promises of a new business model — investors will be guaranteed to profit from the gains made by the projects.
“This will work differently from the usual banking system. The investors who will inject money in these projects will profit from the profits made by the financed projects. One can buy as many shares as they want,” Nsengimana told KFM radio in Kigali.
The fund is also expected to give opportunity of access to finance to youth creative minds whose ideas may be good for business, but could not get selected due to the limited number of winners in some of the ICT innovation competitions.
Existing ICT driven firms will come on board to substitute their limited but lucrative ICT innovation competitions such as Tigo Digital Changemakers Competition and MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge.