My team members and I cram into the back of a cab which seems to have been made before I was born as our boss Patrick haggles with the driver to lower the price in his native language of Kinyarwanda. We are about to take part in our first adventure into the budding community of entrepreneurship in Rwanda. The cab swerves through a fancier part of town near the president’s own residence and drops us off at the University of Rwanda Nyarugenge Campus.
We are met by the president of the entrepreneurship club who leads us up five flights of stairs into a room filled with maybe a hundred students. Everyone in the room stares as we take our seats. The meeting starts with a presentation by David a team member at the African Innovation Prize (AIP, The organization we are working with), followed by a business pitch from a member of the club, and then a celebration of members who won AIP’s business plan the previous year. The meeting concludes with the current president handing over the reins to his successor and finally we are given a chance to speak with the students.
I was amazed by how quickly they jumped out of their seats, walked over to me, and started pitching their business ideas. I heard many different business ideas which led to discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of the plans and my opinions on how to progress their ideas further. I was astonished by the fact that every idea I heard inherently had a social aspect, it seems that the Rwandan students truly understand the opportunity entrepreneurship has to address social issues. For example one student planned on creating a distribution system for banana based products (such as juice) to connect poor rural farmers to large supermarkets in the capital city of Kigali.
Being able to meet these enthusiastic students was an eye opening experience and makes me even more eager to continue working with AIP.