Four students from University of Rwanda have scooped Rwf8 million in cash prizes at this year’s African Innovation Prize (AIP) business plan competition awards.
The four were among the 10 finalists in the fourth edition of the competition.
Origene Igiraneza, who pitched an idea on a mobile and web-based application to ease service delivery in the public service sector, was announced the overall winner. Patrick Cyusa Sebarinda’s project, which is about producing bread using stevia, a natural sweetener, among other ingredients, was the first runner-up.
Theodomir Sebazungu, who pitched a project about children sexual and reproductive health education through a hotline, came in third. Alice Usabimana’s project on how to produce corn flour and maize bran was the fourth.
Each of the four winners will pocket Rwf2 million cash prize for their efforts and innovation. The cash prize is to enable them develop their ideas into business ventures.
The annual competition seeks to inspire university students and instill in them an entrepreneurial spirit and find solutions to some of the challenges facing the country, according to Regis Gatarayiha, the head of ICT department at the Rwanda Development Board.
Gatarayiha, who was speaking at the awards event at the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Finance in Gikondo, last week, said the country counts on the youth to achieve its development aspirations.
“The youth have a big role to play in the country’s transformation by creating new businesses and coming up with innovations using technical and academic skills to steer Rwanda’s economic growth,” he said.
The winners will also get a 12-month business mentorship at Inkomoko Business Development, an African Innovation Prize incubation centre, during which they will learn how to develop and run their businesses, said Herve Kubwimana, the African Innovation Prize country director.
He assured students that any business idea can succeed and contribute to the country’s growth.
“Everyone’s business idea is valuable and should never be undermined. Now that you have enough skills, use them appropriately to improve yourselves and society. Rwanda has programmes that support innovators like you, besides the good investment climate,” he said.
Igiraneza said: “It has been a long journey…I tried last year and didn’t go through, but I didn’t give up. Now that I have this award, I will work harder to develop my idea into a successful enterprise and employ other youth.”