Overview

Rwanda’s demography means entrepreneurship is strongly promoted as a means of providing private sector employment for a young population. Aphrodice is General Manager of kLab, Rwanda’s first entrepreneurial hub, and explains how his organisation is doing just that.

kLab opened in 2012 and offers free WiFi, space, and mentorship to businesses starting up. It is a Public Private Partnership that is seeing its membership grow each month.

Here are some key quotes from the interview

“Rwanda is young”

50% of Rwandans are under 20 and so in order to promote viable employment opportunities, the private sector is required to flourish. This is the main motivation behind setting up kLab, and a strong entrepreneurial environment in general.

“We have seven categories of people who come to kLab”

This varies from people who have just an idea, to those who have a working product ready for the market. In general people use kLab at the beginning of their start up journey, and once they get to a stage where they have a working product they graduate to find an office, and may use the services of another incubators such as Inkomoko or 42 Kura.

“It’s easy to set up a business here…”

The government has really pushed to develop strong facilities to help businesses set up.

It takes only 6 hours to set up a company and it’s free of charge. Renewing passports and other government services is all done electronically and with minimal bureaucracy. This all contributes to creating a business-friendly environment.

“…but there are cultural barriers”

Some entrepreneurs try to copy a business model from a developed country, but these companies fail because they are not customised to the local market.

An example of successfully adapting a developed idea is a company called Mergims.  They are a remittance business (similar to Western Union) but rather than having people send only cash, instead people abroad can pay for things like school fees or other helpful products.

“If you want to go fast, you alone. If you want to go far, you go with others”

This is an African saying that promotes the idea of teamwork. Some entrepreneurs are tempted to go it alone, but the successful ones are those who build partnerships. kLab acts as this hub to allow others to meet and work on ideas together.

“We have a word called ‘Imihigo’

This is a Rwandan concept of contract performance. The organisation has a goal of establishing 100 companies valued at $50m in the next 10 years and so internally, this is the goal that they are working towards.

 

Links

Air Clerk: mobile payments for bus transport

Torque: software for brewery distribution

Inkomoko: incubator supporting entrepreneurs

42 Kura: Israeli-Rwandan Startup Incubator

Mergims: non-cash remittances

Face The Gorillas: short clip from the Rwandan Dragons Den

Social Media Follows

kLab: https://twitter.com/klabrw

Aphrodice: https://twitter.com/amutangana

Further reading

For an overview of other companies and organisations operating out of Rwanda, head to the blog post: The Rwandan Start Up Scene.