The Embassy of Israel in Rwanda, in partnership with Impact Hub Kigali, a community-based innovation hub, concluded Rwanda & Israel Connect, an immersive one-week virtual event that aimed to support the exchange of knowledge and promote collaborations between the two countries. The event, first of its kind, was held on 7 - 11 December 2020 and included a series of virtual sessions focused on learning from the experience and best practices of Israel, exploring the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Rwanda, and promoting connections between entrepreneurs and innovation players in both countries. Ambassador Dr. Ron Adams said at the launch, “This program comes in a timely fashion as Israel is looking at more ways to connect to Rwanda through innovation, and complements our vision to open a hub for Israeli and Rwandan entrepreneurs next to the embassy. The two countries share many similarities and the opportunities to collaborate are endless. We hope this will be a crucial step in making these connections more real.” Mr. Antoine Sebera, Chief Innovation Officer at RISA, who spoke at the launch of the event, echoed the Ambassador’s sentiments that the event was an essential milestone in continuing the relationship between Rwanda and Israel. He further urged participants to take the opportunity to network and share ideas, and assured them of the government’s full support. The event brought together 35 speakers and over 200 participants from the Rwandan and Israeli innovation ecosystems, including entrepreneurs, tech companies, hubs, incubators, investors and academia. Speakers from Rwanda included Kigali Innovation City, ICT Chamber, Zipline, DMM Hehe, ARED, CMU-Africa, African Leadership University and Westerwelle Startup Haus, among others. From the Israeli side, speakers included Pears Foundation, Tech7, MadeInJLM, MassChallenge, Netafim, Volcani International Partnerships and HUJI Innovate. The distinguished speakers, at different sessions, uniformly stressed the need for nurturing entrepreneurial mindsets, thinking globally (given that Rwanda, just like Israel, has a small market), and building the necessary support systems. They further stressed the importance of sharing openly about failure in an entrepreneurship ecosystem, rewarding courage and creativity, and working together not in silos. Speakers stressed that the similarities between the two countries make it easier to collaborate, and that there is a need to explore different ways of strengthening dialogues and building networks, taking advantage of the virtual possibilities. Ideas included mutual task forces, panels, virtual hackathons, Rwanda-Israel Business Councils and trade missions, among others. In a session on the role of academia to foster innovation, university speakers particularly stressed the benefits of academic exchanges to promote innovations rooted in reality. Participants in Israel were introduced to the Rwandan ecosystem, the role the government plays in attracting businesses and investments and how it is creating an enabling environment for Proof of Concepts. They also had the opportunity to hear the inspiring stories of tech innovators in Rwanda, such as Zipline, ARED and DMMHeHe. Gender equality in entrepreneurship was a prevalent theme that arose throughout the different sessions, and there was a dedicated session on female innovation that, among other things, highlighted the need for promoting diverse role models and the benefits of having strong networks and communities of women entrepreneurs. The event also featured engaging sessions aimed at co-creating ideas and building capacities of young people. There was a miniHack session that brought together university students in Israel and Rwanda to meet and ideate solutions for water sustainability. In the framework of the event, Impact Hub Kigali also facilitated a workshop on Design Thinking for Social Innovation, that trained young innovators on creative and user-centered approaches to tackle pressing development challenges. Impact Hub Kigali mentioned that the event was an opportunity for Kigali’s ecosystem to learn from the experiences of Israel but also to showcase to participants in Israel about the opportunities to innovate in Rwanda. “We curated this one-week event in such a way that it offered an engaging and creative virtual space for entrepreneurs and innovation players to connect, share experiences and explore opportunities to collaborate. We hope this program will be one of many”, says Mafer Betancourt, Managing Director at Impact Hub Kigali.