Youth need enabling policies to innovate, says Nsengimana

For Rwandan and African youth to continuously develop ICT solutions and innovations, they require policies and an environment that enable them to translate their ideas into fully fledged businesses.
Youth try out some computer applications at an ICT expo organised by the Korean Embassy in Kigali last month. (John Mbanda)
Youth try out some computer applications at an ICT expo organised by the Korean Embassy in Kigali last month. (John Mbanda)

For Rwandan and African youth to continuously develop ICT solutions and innovations, they require policies and an environment that enable them to translate their ideas into fully fledged businesses.

This was noted yesterday by the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, at the opening of a three-day ICT convention dubbed, “Glocal; Africa’s Premier Business and Innovation Convection” in Kigali.

The convention, which brings together about 400 participants from 10 countries, seeks to chart ways of nurturing local content developers and entrepreneurs to target global markets.

Nsengimana said youth involved in ICT and innovations were delivering on a promise that their generation will be able to develop innovations that would help eradicate poverty on the continent.

To do this, however, Nsengimana said that the youth need informed national and continental policies and actions.

The ongoing convention, he said, would be a good platform to gather their inputs and enable them share ideas.

“It is through platforms like this that the youth can share ideas on how to better create an environment that would enable startups to thrive,” Nsengimana said.

He added that it was important to facilitate opportunities for the youth to learn from each other’s experiences in innovations.

“Technology hubs alone cannot build the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Developing a culture of sharing and working together will bring about the desired progress,” the minister added.

Rwanda Development Board chief operations officer Clare Akamanzi, reiterated that the government would continue to support emerging start-ups.

Akamanzi said the government will continue to support business development centres across the country and the Business Development Fund.

This support is mostly in credit facilities for entrepreneurs as well as provision of collateral for loans.

She said the current ICT development and entrepreneurship opportunities were timely since they are aligned to the country’s ambitions.

“The convention and other ongoing ICT promotion initiatives are timely as we continue to develop our country so it can become a knowledge-based economy,” Akamanzi said.

She further challenged participants at the conference she described as a ‘market place for innovations and solutions’ to engage in discussions that would help link investors to innovators and smaller entrepreneurs seeking capital.

Japanese ambassador to Rwanda Kazuya Ogawa commended the government for its efforts towards fulfilling the country’s ambition of become an ICT hub.

The Government’s effort had attracted partners such as his government, he said.

He also echoed the minister’s comments on the potential of youth, saying they constitute the majority of the population and, given the chance, their ideas and solutions would lead to desired development.

Patrick Kabagema, the head of ICT chambe Private Sector Federation, said the private sector was ready to tap into the opportunities that the government was providing.

“The government targets to have 95 per cent of the population access high speed internet by 2017. The private sector, in turn, has the opportunity to ensure that it is accessible, affordable and that citizens have access to devices. Such are the opportunities that we will continue to look out for in making our contribution to national development,” Kabagema said.

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