A week-long meeting of money and ideas starts
Monday, November 18, marks the beginning of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in which tens of thousands of people will take part in over 50 events facilitated by at least 45 partners across the country. Moses Opobo writes that the events target changing mindsets and to inspire ordinary people to create businesses.
For the whole week, activities that promote the culture and spirit of entrepreneurship will be staged by different organisations and companies for the benefit of the general public.
This is the third year GEW (Rwanda) is hosted nationally by Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship, a strategic partnership between the Private Sector Federation (PSF) and the Babson Entrepreneurship College in the United Sates of America.
During the first edition GEW (Rwanda) in 2011, some 26 events, hosted by 22 partners, were held with over 12,000 people taking part, thanks to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB’s) aggressive sensitisation drive in institutions of higher learning.
The event got bigger and better last year, with 42 partners hosting 50 different events, and attracting over 20,000 participants. The Rwanda event for 2012 was the largest in the East African region in terms of both number of partners and activities hosted.
According to Rayshawn Whitford, Country Director for the Babson Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center, GEW is a celebration of entrepreneurship in Rwanda: “During this week, we try to take participants through the entire range of things –for example, there are business plan competitions where people get to learn how to write effective business plans, there are also seminars and workshops on book keeping and financial management, where people learn how to take care of their business finances.”
Each event is well though-out in terms of the type of audience that is targeted such as students, the youth, mentors and facilitators, policy experts, academicians, researchers, start-ups, and teachers. “We want to serve all the special constituencies according to their specific needs,” says Whitford.
“We are at a stage where people want to do things, but have got no requisite skills to do these things. All they have is the desire to get started, so we try to supplement by creating a community of entrepreneurs –more like shining a light on what the private sector is already doing.”
According to Dorothy Uwera, the head of Entrepreneurship and Collective Investments at PSF, “the goal of is to build a stronger Rwanda by turning job seekers into job creators.”
“GEW is building a network of innovators, thought leaders and organisations dedicated to advancing entrepreneurial growth –unleashing ideas that generate wealth and expand human welfare.”
Uwera adds that Rwanda is moving into a new dawn that is characterised by private sector entrepreneurs creating economic and social value across the country. “The youth have got untold potential to create new ventures that drive forward the economy and improve individual livelihoods. They need established business owners and managers to guide and mentor them, helping them to develop and bring their dreams to reality.”
Turning to women, another key constituency she says: “The untapped potential of women not only as entrepreneurs, but also mentors and investors is a missed opportunity not just for the women themselves, but for the entire national economy. Thus the need to promote and support their involvement in entrepreneurial activity.”
The opening ceremony, slated for tomorrow, at the Kigali Serena Hotel, will mark the start of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (Rwanda), and set the tone for the week-long activities. The ceremony will provide an opportunity to create awareness about the role of entrepreneurship and innovation in developing Rwanda’s economy. It will also shine a spotlight on some of the numerous activities and events organised all over the country.
To blend the ceremonial aspect with additional value creation, the opening ceremony will also provide a platform to inspire the local business community through engagements and talks with local and international speakers and the key facilitators –RDB and PSF.
Past events have been characterised by speakers trying to outdo each other in offering tots of entrepreneurial wisdom:
“This workshop is a day away from my business, to work on my business,” declared a participant at a workshop organised by the Global Relief and Development Partners (GRDP), at the 2012 event. At the US Embassy-hosted Business Leadership Panel Discussion, a one Tom Allen remarked: “Although a business idea is needed, the execution of that idea is paramount. Skills development leads to business success.”
And for the students that attended the RDB’s Campus Entrepreneurship Club Workshops, Elizabeth Mwangi, an adviser for HCID had two valuable lessons for them: “Don’t wait to be successful in the big city –Kigali. Start your successful enterprise wherever you are!”
“Originality is important in entrepreneurship, try something different! You were born an original, don’t die as a photocopy!”
GEW is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.
During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. These activities, from large-scale competitions and events to intimate networking gatherings, connect participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors—introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.
Millions who had never before considered launching their own ventures benefit from free advice and inspiration from the likes of Richard Branson, Michael Dell and Muhammad Yunus. Thousands of brand new startups spring to life through bootcamps like Startup Weekend and competitions like Startup Open.
Hundreds of universities strengthen connections that help them commercialise research from their labs. Researchers and policymakers engage in discussions around the world to examine the underlying policies necessary to promote entrepreneurial growth. And serial entrepreneurs share their expertise through a string of activities and practical training courses.
Meanwhile, world leaders and local elected officials alike have embraced the campaign as they look to fuel the economic engine of high-growth startups in their own countries and communities. Last year alone, presidents and prime ministers from 20 countries supported GEW while 93 ministers from 54 countries participated by speaking at activities during the Week, filming statements of support or otherwise endorsing the national campaigns in their countries.