Rwanda’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem sees new start-ups arising daily. The country has put in place strong institutions, enacted economic transformation strategies and a strong judicial system. Thereby, Rwanda is building a conducive business environment that enables entrepreneurship to flourish.
The ecosystem of service providers is growing fast, with new coworking spaces, incubators, accelerators, universities and nonprofit organisations’ youth entrepreneurship programmes opening up frequently. The key players in the innovation ecosystem focus on entrepreneurship education, SME finance and networking opportunities.
There is a strong interest among stakeholders to collaborate, align and create synergy in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Initiatives can be seen on a vertical level across start-ups, the private sector and government, and on a horizontal level among entrepreneurs.
Some examples include:
- In 2018, one of the leading pan-African telecom companies, Liquid Telecom, partnered with Impact Hub Kigali to support the start-up scene through the provision of affordable high speed internet to cloud-based start-ups.
- Since 2016, an American medical product supplies business called Zipline started operating in Rwanda, delivering blood in rural places of the country using drone technology. In 2019, more than half of all blood deliveries in Rwanda were using Ziplines, reducing both the costs and the time to deliver blood, and thereby saving lives.
Financing start-ups is one of the biggest challenges to building a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem. In Rwanda, many entrepreneurs start their businesses using personal savings or getting informal loans from friends and family. Formal financing instruments become applicable after they have generated revenues. Borrowing from banks is the mainstream funding method, but other funding support programmes are also popular.
The Rwandan banking sector is stable and profitable. It comprises commercial banks, development banks and microfinance institutions. Most banks offer loans as their main product to entrepreneurs and their targets are entrepreneurs who have proven traction and who have collateral.