Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Event at CMUR-Carnegie Mellon University Africa - Carnegie Mellon University

Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Event at CMUR

CMUR hosts Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Event

CMU Rwanda organized and hosted an event on 22 June, on the morning of our second graduation ceremony. Included in the week’s activities at the request of our graduation Keynote speaker Sandra Johnson, the event served as an overview of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Rwanda for our overseas visitors.

We hosted a number of speakers at CMUR offices in Telecom House in Kigali, first was Alex Ntale from the Private Sector Federation. He spoke of the challenge to grow start-ups from the idea stage once university students leave school – recent graduates do not have capital or resources and so klab was opened in 2012 to provide a communal workspace, training and mentorship for young people with business ideas.  Klab now has a membership of over 200 future entrepreneurs and our CMUR Associate Director Prof Michel Bezy serves as a board member.

Since klab was initiated other organisations and incubators have become active on the idea level: Think, Educat, Spring, Sunseed, Creative Hub.

The Think incubator created by Tigo/Millicom then was presented by Paul Soko, Investment Manager. Think is preparing start-ups from all over Africa for their expansion phase and it is currently welcoming its second cohort. This incubator although based Rwanda, is looking support all entrepreneurs solving African problems.

Next speaker was Clinton Mutambe, founder of Esaja.com which was selected by Think. He has moved from his native Zimbabwe to progress his company, which looks into the problem of trade barriers in Africa. He strongly believes that intra-Africa trade is low compared to other continents not due to infrastructure problems, as is commonly thought, but rather is caused by lack of information on the available products and services in neighbouring countries.

“Information drives innovation and cuts corruption” said Mutambe, “More nations will live or die by their ability to leverage information. Rwanda is becoming a centre of information – meeting place for the continent."

Natasha Muhoza, communications Officer with Hehe labs spoke to us of their commitment to context appropriate solutions. Hehe Labs is an established software development company, building mobile solutions for the government and Rwanda's main mobile network, among others and is also fostering young tech entrepreneurs through their Fellows program. Hehe Fellow Naberwe Fileille presented her Hirepipe solution for the hiring process, which is under development this summer as Naberwe has recently graduated from secondary school.

CMU-R Director Crystal Rugege gave a quick overview of Rwanda Creative Hub, which is providing seed funding, and support to start-ups in media and technology. To date two CMU companies have benefited from their assistance. Other speakers at the event, included entrepreneur Patrick Buchana of Airclerk and Claudette Irere general manger of klab. All speakers entertained questions from our visitors  on entrepreneurship in Africa before the event drew to a close.

In his concluding remarks CMUR Director Bruce Krogh noted that Rwanda Development Board are interested to develop “an innovation city with exports that weigh nothing”, given Rwanda is a landlocked country.

Krogh remarked “Africa is the next innovation frontier."

Related Links

MSIT Program in Rwanda
http://www.cmu.edu/rwanda/degree-program/msit/index.html