Why Rwanda was picked to host major African innovation event

On May 15, 2018, the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) announced that they will be collaborating with the Government of Rwanda as the host of the 7th edition of the prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA).

To held between October 11th – 12th, 2018 at Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda, the event aims at showcasing African ingenuity as well as recognizing and connecting African innovators and entrepreneurs with key innovation ecosystems enablers, according to an official statement.

The statement which was posted on IPA’s website states that the decision to choose Rwanda as the host was “based on the bid Rwanda submitted which underscored the Government’s commitment towards building a knowledge-based economy by promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Speaking on the good news, Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Rwanda’s minister of Information Technology and Communications, hailed IPA for its “message” that “cuts across generations and puts forth mindsets that are passionate about the upliftment of Africa”, adding that “We look forward to hosting these brilliant minds.”

Rwanda and push towards becoming an innovation-led knowledge economy

According to IPA’s statement, Rwanda’s strategic and widespread adoption of ICTs, which has propelled the nation towards socio-economic growth, makes it the ideal host nation for IPA 2018.

In their vision for 2020, Rwanda intends to transform into a self-reliant, knowledge-based economy, and move its status towards becoming an upper-middle to high-income country.

One other reason IPA considered to choose Rwanda was because of its mission to become a leading innovation and technology hub in the continent, having pioneered in deploying Smart City technology to improve the lifestyles and social sustainability of its citizens.

Tech hubs have been playing an important role in Rwanda’s innovation ecosystem, offering enabling environments for young Rwandans with business ideas to innovate., says IPA.

“These hubs aim to support a new generation of Rwandese entrepreneurs that will create jobs and contribute to the economy,” reads the statement.

“Moreover, the Government of Rwanda is committed to increasing competition in the continent to foster innovation, spur job creation and promote inclusive economic growth.”

Commenting on the partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the AIF Chairman of the Board Walter Fust, said, “Recently, Rwanda has emerged as one of Africa’s most innovative economies, topping the ranks as far as science, technology and innovation (STI) capacity is concerned. The government’s goal to attract US$1 billion worth of ICT investments by 2020, backed by major milestones such as the Kigali Innovation City, is a reflection of its commitment towards digital transformation.”

He added: “Rwanda’s efforts to support innovation and promote high-tech sectors such as ICTs and life sciences are truly commendable. We are proud to partner with the Government of Rwanda to host IPA 2018 and look forward to collaborating with Rwandan innovators and innovation enablers in their quest to become an innovation-led knowledge economy.”

IPA over the years

Over the past six years, AIF has partnered with innovation enablers and governments in Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa to host the Innovation Prize for Africa event.

Together with its partners, AIF has made great strides in strengthening African innovation ecosystems through ongoing collaborative programs and strategic partnerships aimed at unlocking the potential of African innovators.

Today, AIF has a network of over 9,400 African innovators across 55 countries and over 400 innovation enablers, officials says, adding that “IPA impact is illustrated by the fact that it has generated over US$ 30 Million in investments for African innovators and past winners/nominees have achieved commendable milestones benefiting not only themselves but also their communities.”

Enthusiastic about hosting IPA 2018 in Rwanda, Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, AIF Managing Director and IPA Program Director, commented, “We are delighted to showcase the continent’s best and brightest innovators during the 7th edition of IPA to be held in Rwanda. IPA 2018 is a call to African nations to collaborate and invest in building inclusive ecosystems that can drive needs-based innovation and support niche innovative enterprise across all segments of African society.”

She continued: “We are delighted to partner with the Government of Rwanda and connecting our ever-growing Pan-African network of African innovators, enablers and partners with the country’s innovators and enablers. We are confident that this partnership will go a long way in helping to build stronger, more sustainable innovation ecosystems that will propel the continent forward.”

This year’s theme for the event is ‘Investing in Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems’, and it calls for African governments and innovation stakeholders to invest in building bridges for more inclusive ecosystems that will accelerate and scale African innovation at all levels of society.

According to officials, “the aim is to increase access to innovative financing and know-how and to enhance collaboration between African nations to enable local innovators to access higher value markets for their solutions at a faster rate. Women and young innovators/entrepreneurs, enablers with an interest in supporting social and tech innovations, and investors are invited to actively participate in the catalytic two-day IPA event.”

IPA 2018 will bring together key government officials, public and private sector stakeholders as well as innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, academics, researchers, policy makers, think tanks and STI experts.

The two-day event will feature a series of strategic roundtables and workshops aimed at identifying solutions and key actions to drive investments in inclusive innovation ecosystems across Africa.

It will also feature an innovation market place where IPA winners and nominees together with Rwandan and other selected African innovators will showcase their innovations to a Pan African and international audiences, including top tier media.


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