The Rwandan startup ecosystem is looking exciting for 2022. With increased funding, a new generation of eager and talented innovators, increased access to mentorship and technology, there is little to hold this year back. Like the rest of the world, the past two years have sped up digital transformation in the country with experts describing it as “one of the biggest value transfers from the traditional world to the new economy.” However the issue remains on sustainability of access to capital and prohibitive production costs, especially as the country seeks to position herself as a regional innovation hub. In no particular order, The New Times compiled a closer look at the top ten initiatives, most of which were launched last year that could help propel the vibrant start-up and tech ecosystem. 1.New investment law Rwanda formally gazetted on February 8, a new investment law (Law no. 006/2021) that included a number of key changes. The law added specific incentives for angel investors and partners like Jasiri & Make-IT who have provided training for angel investing in the past. Perhaps the most significant change in the new investment law is its shift in vision. The old law was designed to maximize cost effectiveness and incentives for registered investors, which rendered it time-bound and performance-based. The new law, on the other hand, aims to promote a vibrant, diversified and highly productive private sector facilitated through the Kigali Innovation City, the Kigali International Financial Centre, start-up organisations and entrepreneurs. Over the years, Startup funding has emerged as a critical challenge in Rwanda’s ecosystem, with majority saying it was among the main factors that stifle innovation on the local market. 2. Norrsken East Africa Swedish co-working space and investment fund Norrsken Foundation finally opened its regional entrepreneurship hub in Kigali last year, following an initial announcement made in 2019. The organization seeks to benefit 1,000 entrepreneurs in its state-of-the-art hub in Kigali, with an initial intake of 250 entrepreneurs. The $10 million facility is located in the Central Business District in the former compound of Ecole Belge de Kigali. Already 20 Rwandan start-ups have won an opportunity to benefit from the organization’s Health Tech Hub, in an initiative that seeks to revolutionize the continent’s growing challenges. The start-ups will have access to a state-of-the-art workplace together with mentoring, expert support and access to investor capital. 3.Fintech innovation programme Rwanda in partnership with Co-creation Hub and Mojaloop Foundation launched the Fintech Innovation Program in December last year. As part of the project, CcHUB hopes to support early-stage fintech startups and innovators (with at least an MVP) through an incubation program. MVP means the minimum viable product. The hub will be organising two courts of 15 startups over the course of the year, with a $10,000 grant to each selected company. Besides the cash prize, winners will also benefit from access to Google products and Mojaloo as well as access to a network of partners and investors. 4. Kigali Innovation City The launch of Kigali Innovation City masterplan marked yet an additional milestone in building a viable startup ecosystem. According to officials, the development which is projected to attract over US$300million and create over 50,000 jobs will shape a pan-African pool of fascinating innovators. Just recently, the project secured its first funding support worth $20 miliion from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA). The master plan is a blueprint for the 61 hectares KIC site, which entails developing and constructing a mixed-use world-class and smart innovation hub. It will be implemented in phases. First, the construction of the horizontal infrastructure, such as roads & drainage systems, and a mixed-use building and visitor centre in 2022. KIC already houses two world class Universities, Carnergie Mellon University and African Leadership University. 5. Rwanda Innovation Fund With a mandate to back disruptive, innovative companies that deploy solutions to solve major sustainability challenges on the continent, Rwanda Innovation Fund opened its offices in Kigali last year. The development follows a partnership between Rwanda and Angaza Capital, an investment manager with operations in Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. According to the fund management, companies can be funded to the tune of between $250,000 and $5 million. 6. The Hanga Pitchfest The energy, passion for innovation and interest demonstrated in HangaPitchfest last month is evidence of a growing and vibrant start-up ecosystem. Hanga Pitchfest, organised by the Ministry of ICT and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) was launched last year as part of the efforts to promote the country’s culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. In its debut season, Diane Cyuzuzo the Chief Executive of Afriduino scooped a prize bag of $50,000 as the top winner from a pool of 400 applicants. She was awarded by President Paul Kagame. The annual competition aims to provide a platform to showcase tech-entrepreneurs and creative talent from all over the country. 7. New Tech enabled innovation policy The Ministry of ICT and Innovation is finalizing the development of Tech Enabled Innovation Policy The policy, according to the ministry, identifies most impactful reforms to unlock tech-enabled innovation and startup growth to leapfrog to a knowledge economy. This policy also envisions building and attracting market-leading innovations that capture global markets. Key recommendations from a consultative meeting hosted last year included emphasizing the role of academia, education institutions and R&D to spur innovation. Also critical, according to experts, is identifying the key regulatory reforms required to lessen the burden and cost of compliance for startups. 8. Startup Act expected in 2022 The Ministry is also banking on a startup act that is currently being finalized. It provides incentives designed to promote and scale Rwandan upcoming innovators, through addressing barriers to entry by unlocking regulations, financing, skills, and infrastructure and market access needed to grow the Tech industry. In the last three years, Startup Acts have become a popular mechanism to package reforms. Rwanda has embarked on the process, after already passing a number of laws supporting businesses, such as the Investment Code. Once in place, officials think the move presents a win-win scenario as the government expects a boost in the tax base. 9. Google, Rwanda deal Rwandan startups stand to win big from the country’s latest deal with American tech giant Google, that seeks to accelerate the former’s digital transformation. Officials at the Ministry of ICT and Innovation said in a previous interview that Google with the support of the Kigali Innovation City seeks to increase the number of startups in Google’s competitive pan-African accelerator programme, commonly known as Google for Startups. Already last year, Google admitted its first Rwandan-based company, Tabiri Analytics, a cyber-security startup founded by Carnegie Mellon University-Africa students, as one of the premier investments. 10. Global firm TEK Experts enters Kigali market After announcing the opening of its Centre in Kigali, TEK Experts, a world class technology support firm, plans to recruit over 1,000 Rwandan technical support engineers and management staff. The development is yet another ready opportunity to support Rwanda’s goal of talent development, especially in the tech sector. In particular, Engineering is still a nascent area in the country but holds significant potential for the creation of decent jobs and service export revenue.