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Rwanda ploughs US$30 million into innovation

Rwanda ploughs US million into innovation

The government of Rwanda has launched a new US$30 million Research and Innovation Fund (RIF) at a national innovation-focused symposium hosted in Kigali this week.

The country's Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said the resource will be used to support research and research-based innovation, and link aspiring innovators up with employment opportunities.

It will also be used to promote the science and technology industries, and continue support for organisations including the University of Rwanda, the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA).

Ngirente added, "Starting from the next fiscal year, the Government of Rwanda has allocated a seed capital to the National Research and Innovation Fund. Year after year, we commit to increase our budget allocation to this Innovation Fund."

Plan to attract more funding

The RIF was established through a loan from the African Development Fund (AfDB) in March this year.

The financial institution said the decision to grant the loan was influenced by what it described as "a lack of venture capital funding vehicles in the country for supporting promising young entrepreneurs" and the impact of limited funding capacity and liquidity issues on early stage ventures.

The AfDB adds that the RIF will support and provide equity financing for Rwanda's SMEs, as well as help to train tech entrepreneurs in business planning and management.

Gabriel Negatu, a Director for East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office at AfDB said the objective is for the RIF to support at least 150 companies at various stages and invest in about 20 early growth stage opportunities, along with creating more than 2,000 direct jobs and over 6,000 indirect jobs over a 10-year life cycle.

Rwanda's unemployment rate for youth between the ages of 15 to 24 currently stands at 2.1% according to November 2017 statistics released by the International Labour Organisation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 ranked Rwanda in 58th position out of 137 countries, in 101st place for technological readiness and 44th in terms of innovation.

The organisation has noted a gap within Rwanda's telecommunication and transport infrastructure, despite ongoing investment.

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