First batch of 20 young entrepreneurs have started a two-week summer camp intended to produce innovators of the Covid-19 era and beyond. The first-of-its-kind camp brought together finalists and alumni of the Kigali Independent University (ULK) and its polytechnique arm. It aims at converging students and academicians with the private sector players, business development practitioners and policy makers to spur employment and job creation by fostering student’s creativity and innovation. The camp, dubbed The National Entrepreneurship Summer Camp, was organised by ULK in partnership with Sparkassenstiftung (Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation, SBFIC) and the Germany-based Kempten University of Applied Sciences. Rwandan institutions including the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) and Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship and Microfinance joined the initiative to drive the newly developed Entrepreneurship Development Policy (EDP). The initiative was also supported by DOT-Rwanda, Inkomoko, 250 Startups, RDB and Guez Show. The EDP was designed to support enterprises by fostering growth and creating impact such as job creation and product diversification among others. Officiating the camp opening on Monday in Kigali, Jonas Munyurangabo, Director General of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in MINICOM, highlighted its contribution to achieving the EDP goals. “This training will help young people broaden their entrepreneurial thinking and turn problems they see in the society into opportunities,” he said. In light of Covid-19, the camp organizers seek to support innovative ideas as solutions to cope with social and economic hardships induced by the pandemic. The theme of the event is “Embracing Entrepreneurial thinking culture, skills and knowledge and during and beyond and covid-19”. “We want to bring out students who have business ideas and are willing to develop them further into successful enterprises,” said Becky Balinda, Assistant Vice Chancellor at ULK. With various partners, Balinda said they will provide skills, resources and mobilise funding to nurture the ideas and scale up the working businesses since the cohort already includes a handful of startups. Prof. Tobias Peylo of Kempten University emphasized that the camp will offer beyond just business knowhow. “This will help you [participants] know each other and possibly work together in the future,” said Peylo. “These business ideas should contribute in making the world a better place by impacting communities and solving problems that face the world today.” Participants will dive in activities such as business simulation, case studies and company visits, all designed to inspire entrepreneurial thinking, mindset shift and encourage practical approaches to learning. Speaking on behalf of SBFIC, Country Director Maria Knappstein expressed optimism towards participants, reiterating the need to promote entrepreneurship awareness for mindset change. “We need people who say ‘I can imagine becoming an entrepreneur, and maybe I already have the first business idea and I am willing to develop it further,’” said Knappstein. All participants were tested Covid-19 negative. Some events will be conducted virtually in order to keep a safe environment for the participants by enforcing preventive measures against the disease. Kevin Mukarage, one of the participants is a ULK alumni who owns East Africa Apparel Ltd., an apparel startup focused on head cloths. For startups, Mukarage cited lots of challenges brought by Covid-19 such as putting and promoting products on the market. “And most people don’t have money to buy what I am selling, he said. “As a startup, I am looking to gain revenue and better the society but at the same time you find that the society itself is locked in because everyone is trying to look out for themselves.” From the training, Mukarage said he is looking out for new strategies to drive around the challenges. “I expect this camp to equip me to be independent. I dont want to be one of those business people who start out with bank loans and I believe this summer camp will train me on how to avoid such disadvantages.” Another participant, Sandrine Umurangamirwa, a student, wants to start a large-scale poultry enterprise. “I want this training to help me point out my strong traits and drawbacks for doing business so that I can improve on my weak points. Umurangamirwa, 23, said that young people, especially women need more initiatives which expose them to business. “Nowadays, if you don’t have money, if you don’t have a job you are doing, you are done. Society judges you because you have no title,” she said. On the final day, participants will pitch their business ideas. The most convincing ones will receive awards in terms of further technical support programs to realize and scale up their business ideas. Maria Knappstein, SBFIC Rwanda Country Director, Dr. Mukulira Olivier, the Managing Director of Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives Entrepreneurship and Microfinance, Becky Balinda. Becky Balinda, Assistant Vice Chancellor at ULK. Dr. Mukulira Olivier, the Managing Director of Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives Entrepreneurship and Microfinance (RICEM). Jonas Munyurangabo, Director General of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in MINICOM. Maria Knappstein, SBFIC Rwanda Country Director. Maria Knappstein speaks in opening of the two-week entrepreneurship summer camp intended to produce innovators of the Covid-19 era and beyond.