Kigali, 19 April 2013 (ECA) – The Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) will soon award 10 best young entrepreneurs with locally applicable innovative projects that spur socio-economic transformation of the country.
Rwandan Prime Minister, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, is expected to preside over the function of awarding the successful applicants in a function to be held on 2 May 2013 in the Kigali Health Institute.
In collaboration with One UN, through the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Rwanda initiated RIEF with the objective of stimulating economic transformation through research and development in innovative market-oriented products and processes in priority areas of the economy. Preference is given to young graduate innovators, thereby increasing prosperity and the competitiveness of the Rwandan economy.
The recognition of the potential power and contribution of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) also induced the establishment of the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund in 2012. STI has been widely acknowledged as a major driver of economic growth of many countries. Innovation plays a central role in transforming new and emerging knowledge into new and improved goods, processes and services that underpin the competitiveness of countries and productivity and efficiency of their firms.
The Fund’s objectives align with Rwanda’s “Vision 2020” and are founded on the newly formulated second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2), which seeks to achieve a combination of rapid economic growth, sufficient to drive the country towards attaining middle - income status by 2020, and the reduction of poverty to 30% by 2015.
The Fund’s account was opened with an initial capital of close to 600,000 USD. For the first phase, the One UN through ECA provided the seed capital (125,000 USD), which was supplemented by the Government of Rwanda.
RIEF has the potential to disburse up to 50,000 USD for each successful innovation project.
The 2013 RIEF call for proposals was launched in November 2012 and saw 369 applicants submitting innovative project concept papers, including 138 on agriculture related projects, 135 projects in the manufacture sector and 96 applications on ICT. Applications came from 29 out of 30 districts of Rwanda.
The submitted applications were reviewed by an independent expert committee whose members are drawn from the Government of Rwanda, ECA, the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Private Sector, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and independent Venture capitalists from the United States, with more than 25 years experience in investing in companies and start-ups.
The fact that Rwanda is among the first African countries to develop such a fund to support its innovators demonstrates its belief that investment in research and development in innovation is a national priority for development and key a key condition to building the foundation for a smooth transition to a knowledge-driven economy. According to the ECA Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa, ONE UN in Rwanda is pleased to support this and other outstanding initiatives that promote the use of science, technology and innovation (STI) to achieve sustainable socio-economic development in Africa.
ECA is also encouraging other African countries to follow the Rwanda’s example of promoting young African men and women’s innovative business opportunities.
According to Senior Officials at the ECA, Africa’s economy is growing and its population is booming. The continent’s 1 billion people will more than double by 2050, creating a young workforce that is predicted to surpass India or China. This situation requires innovative ideas to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship development. Many would need a sound Research & Development basis.
“We are confident that the 10 innovate projects to be funded in Agriculture, Information Communication Technologies, and Manufacturing will generate economic growth and employment; enhances productivity and through economic growth contribute to the wealth of our country”, says a senior Government of Rwanda Official.