Young Rwandan innovators who qualified for the inaugural continental MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge competition semi-final are disappointed with the contest and organisers.
This follows the announcement of the competition finalists on Thursday by the organisers when country winners (the case of Rwanda) were preparing to pitch their ideas at the semi-final level. The final is slated for May 27 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Rwanda’s two teams that qualified for semis are Steadypay (a startup by three Carnegie Mellon University students), and Melife (a project by two Kepler University students). They say the announcement of finalists caught them unawares as they were already processing their travel arrangements as requested by organisers MTN and Jumia.
According to Jean de Dieu Habaguhirwa, one of the brains behind Kepler University students project Melife, the experience is demoralising and has left the two teams frustrated.
“We knew that we would travel to South Africa after winning the national live pitching. We were even requested to submit our passports and other requirements so that they can process our visas.
“However, we were surprised when we received emails at the beginning of last week, informing us that the contest has ended. This is embarrassing and raises questions about the whole exercise,” he said.
Habaguhirwa added that they have sought to know why the contest was concluded in the boardroom but are yet to get a reply.
He however said they were commended and offered online courses from a South African-based university.
The contestants were in line to win a cash prize of $25,000 seed capital to support their start-ups and also benefit from a yearlong partnership with Jumia and partners.
Officials from one of the organisers said the process was changed, but added that they were not sure what prompted the move.
The finalists announced by organisers are Nigeria’s Pass.ng, MedRX from Ghana, and, Vibaco from Tanzania.
The three will pitch their business ideas at the entrepreneurship festival in Cape Town at the end of May.