Innovation lessons from Kigali – Next Generation Africa
29 August 2023

Muraho! 😃

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to reflect on the week that the volunteers of BeEntrepreneurs spent in Kigali for the 2023/2024 edition of Next Generation Africa.

A group of 10 boys and girls, supported by the entire team during the long and complex project selection phase, met in the Rwandan capital to kick off the mentorship and support activities for the 26 projects chosen out of almost 400 applications! 🌟

This year we bet on the ability to attract projects from all over the East Africa region. A bet won, also thanks to the outstanding support of Norrsken House Kigali, which was our headquarters for the week. To our delight, 50 percent of the bootcamp participants joined us in Kigali from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Uganda, ensuring an international atmosphere and great multiculturalism. 

We knew from the beginning that the week would be intense. The days were fast paced, mostly following a pattern that included lessons or panels in the morning and one-to-one mentorship activities in the afternoon. We had the pleasure of having the Honorary Consul Giovanni Davite as a guest who officially kicked off the bootcamp.

On Monday we focussed on the pitch structure, networking opportunities, and user research and product prototyping: all elements that guaranteed a solid foundation for the following days. 

On Tuesday, again thanks to the participation of Giovanni Davite (this time as President of the European Business Chamber in Rwanda and entrepreneur), we wanted to talk about the features of the European market and the potential connections for the chosen projects. We also went into detail about the construction of the business plan, a cross-cutting topic on which all startups worked in the afternoon, refining their models until we moved to the Digital Transformation Center. 💼📈

This beautiful coworking and conference space was the setting for the evening event, which focused on resource optimization in the agritech field – a key theme for many of the projects in this edition. Over 60 people listened to a speech from local experts in vertical farming, co-products, and animal fodder, and the live presentations from Italy by the Aquaponic Design group – on hydroponic systems, and by Il Fermentalista – on the principles, business opportunities, and added value of organic fermentation processes of products.

On Wednesday morning, we had the pleasure of giving the stage to Youssuf Ntwali, CEO and co-founder of BAG, for his lecture on team building and resource management, with many questions from the audience, which turned into a beautiful chat and a moment of sharing experiences, doubts, and curiosities. In the afternoon, we revamped a classic of Next Generation Africa: a focus on communication soft skills and public speaking to ensure that one’s message is conveyed as effectively as possible, in the short time available and to different audience targets.

After the daily one-to-one slot, we moved to the conference room of the Marriott Hotel in Kigali, with an audience of over 100 people following the panel organized in collaboration with ESADE Business School of Barcelona. On stage: Giulio Toscani, PHD Digital Strategy Academic at Esade and visiting professor at African Leadership University; Momar Dieng, PhD, Dean of the School of Business at African Leadership University; Kessy Mugabo Kayiganwa, co-founder of IKAMBA Apparel and alumnus of African Leadership University; and Daniel Yin, CEO of SPOUTS International. The discussion focused on the challenges of entrepreneurship in East Africa and its ties with Europe, moderated by our own Davide Rovera.

This thread has guided us until Thursday morning, when we discussed Venture Financing with members of Katapult, Flyzipline, and Angaza Capital. Another discussion that stimulated dozens of questions.

The afternoon session was entirely dedicated to general pitching, key for the selection of the top 10 projects admitted to Friday’s demo day. The selection was very complex, but,  beyond the final prize and the Italian roadshow, we think that the contacts and skills acquired during these days together are really the reward that each of them (and us) will bring with them into the future!

On Friday morning we focused on the pitches of the 10 selected projects and on the set up of the Norrsken Pergola, which was about to host an audience of over 100 people once again. A big thank you goes to the Italian Embassy in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi represented by Mario Savona, who opened the event, and to our sponsors who make our activities possible every year: ENI and f2a.

Furthermore, we must also thank all the members of the jury who voted for the startups and in particular the opponents who, in addition to evaluating the pitches, asked questions and shared reflections with the candidates: Junior Kanamugire Bicura of Katapult, Johanna Sandberg of EBCR, Oggy Nduka of GPS Development, Chris Muneza of Angaza Capital, Stanley Mukasa of CMU, Paul Kato of AMI, Olivier Kalisa of 250STARTUPS, Sylvester Jackson Karara of UKC, Chris Irakoze of EzaNeza, and Mauro Martufi of ENI.

We also had the pleasure to host Alex Musyoka, co-founder and COO of Viebeg Medical, who shared his entrepreneurial experience with the audience.

The selection of the 5 projects that will participate in the Italian roadshow in spring 2024 saw the following ranking. In third place, LUNA, a femtech company that provides a secure app to confidentially discuss and get reliable information on women’s mental and physical health. Second place went to Ecoplastile, a startup that transforms plastic waste into ecological, lightweight, and high-performance tiles, guided by the personal experiences of the founder who grew up in the Kibera slum in Uganda. And winning startup was SLS Energy, which ingeniously reused battery cells recovered from electronic waste to re-create functioning backup and energy storage devices for telecommunications towers.

In addition to the top three startups, special mentions in the greentech field include Shambapro, an app that aims to optimize the management for agricultural activities as a whole, and Ubuntu in the education field, a project that provides targeted support for school educators in Africa.

We wish to thank the Rwanda Development Board, Westerwelle Foundation, Kosmotive, FlyZipline, Rwanda Community Abroad – Italy, ALU, VIEBEG, and Africa Climate Ventures for their availability and support! 📹🌟

We are getting ready with renewed energy for the organization of an Italian roadshow that promises to be very exciting!

Click here for more information on “Next Generation Africa 2023“.

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