A Small Country Making A Big Impact
By: Haya Alzaid
Country Director/Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center
National Coordinator/Global Entrepreneurship Week Rwanda
Most people would be surprised by the fact that a country of Rwanda’s size could generate a great amount of energy and excitement around entrepreneurship. But a country that has seen 7.6% annual growth in the last 10 years and is considered one of the top 20 fastest growing economies in the world definitely understands the importance of entrepreneurship. In just two years, the GEW/Rwanda campaign has grown to an incredible scale. Building on our first year, we went from 22 partners hosting 26 events to 45 partners hosting 50 events bringing together close to 20,000 participants to those events. We also hosted our first Globally Featured Event, the Meet the Lions pitch competition. Beginning in 2012, the Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT) and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) joined GEW/Rwanda as Strategic Partners, lending their expertise and networks needed to take this initiative to the next level.
Our 2012 events focused on a theme of “Empowering Youth and Women for Productivity.” We carried this theme throughout the week with stimulating events ranging from workshops and informational sessions to lectures and competitions. Most of our events were held in partnership with multiple organizations. The Schools Entrepreneurship Network partnered with a local co-working space, The Office-Rwanda, to host an open house for youth, which connected teenagers with thriving local entrepreneurs. Women for Women International, along with Nike’s Girl Effect, UN Women, and the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, conducted district competitions focused on celebrating women entrepreneurs and incorporated a small market allowing the entrepreneurs and cooperatives to sell and showcase their products. Ashoka East Africa hosted an event that took a bus of 30 people on a “Social Entrepreneurship Safari” where attendees gained a tour of social entrepreneurs and Ashoka Fellows in Rwanda.
Building on their previous year’s event, RDB showed the impact progression of GEW in Rwanda. In 2011, RDB went out to universities all around Rwanda talking to students about the power of entrepreneurship and encouraging them to become actively involved in entrepreneurship on their campus. As a result many of the universities started entrepreneurship clubs, creating a support system for entrepreneurs in the universities. In 2012, RDB partnered with MYICT to host University Entrepreneurship Club Workshops. They brought together the clubs for an intensive one-day workshop diving deep into entrepreneurship development through speakers and interactive group sessions.
Educat was able to build on an exciting event by pairing it’s Real Business Accelerator Program with the Meet the Lions competition ensuring that 10 entrepreneurs would not only be able to work on their business ideas throughout the week of GEW with support from mentors as well as informational workshops, but also would have the opportunity to travel to South Africa to represent Rwanda in the continent-wide competition. The entrepreneurs were able to build on their ideas in an interactive and hands-on environment thereby gaining valuable knowledge throughout the week culminating with the Meet the Lions competition.
The GEW/Rwanda campaign was able to bring a significant number of partners on board to collaborate and share resources. GEW has created a platform for individuals, organizations and ministries in Rwanda who value entrepreneurship to exchange knowledge, building a stronger entrepreneurial eco-system and consequently a stronger Rwanda.