Initiative to support innovative young entrepreneurs unveiled

Enterprising and innovative young Rwandans have an opportunity to secure funding to implement or expand their business ideas thanks to a new initiative by Airtel Rwanda and UNICEF. The two organisations say the project, dubbed ‘Pitch Night’, seeks to bring voices and ideas of Rwanda’s young people to the forefront of development discussions and promote the innovation ecosystem.

According to Ted Maly, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) representative in Rwanda, the joint initiative will link young entrepreneurs below 25 years of age and prospective investors, partners and the government, as well encourage young people to develop solutions for existing challenges in communities. It targets enterprising young Rwandans in the sectors of health, education and environment and their ideas must be targeted at addressing challenges affecting youth.

“We want to encourage young people to develop innovative solutions to the problems affecting youth. This concept has been effectively used by UNICEF and Airtel in Malawi to promote youth engagement and entrepreneurship; we expect it to work here,” he said during the launch at UNICEF offices in Kigali on Wednesday.

Maly said partnerships have enormous potential to impact children’s lives, directly and indirectly.

Under the theme, “Improving the Lives of adolescents and youth in health, education and environment”, the initiative seeks to provide mentorship to young innovators and give them an opportunity to express themselves.

The launch of the project comes weeks after Airtel Rwanda launched the first innovation hub in Huye District that aims at supporting local innovators.

Airtel managing director Michael Adjei said: “The new joint project is an extension of what we have already started to continue building the capacity of those with innovative ideas.”

“Apart from doing business, Airtel is committed to building capacity of the people in markets where we operate. This project is part of the bigger plan to facilitate the innovators and we believe it supports the country’s ambitions to becoming an innovation hub,” he said.

“We are confident that the initiative will contribute toward finding home-grown solutions to address challenges faced by the country,” Adjei added.

How to participate

To participate, young entrepreneurs in areas of environment, health and education may apply as an individual or as a group of three or less. Receiving applications started on March 15 and ends on April 6. Shortlisted finalists will then pitch their ideas before a panel at the beginning of May.

The winner will receive $5,000 in project funding and mentorship. About six individuals or teams will be selected for funding ‘to bring their ideas to life’. They will also benefit from a one-year training and mentorship programme at Airtel’s Innovation Hub in Huye.

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