19 May 2017

Rwanda: Develop Projects That Address Community Challenges, Youth Told

Several youth innovative projects won cash and other prizes during the closure of an initiative dubbed 'Pitch Night' in Kigali on Wednesday.

Under the theme, "Improving the Lives of Adolescents and Youth in Health, Education and Environment," five projects were selected between March 16 and April 6 and received business mentorship courtesy of Airtel and UNICEF Rwanda.

All the five competitors were awarded with smartphones with one-year free internet during a function at the University of Rwanda's College of Business and Economics.

The winning innovation was awarded with $5,000 (about Rwf4 million), a laptop, and will get coaching during incubation period.

Rosette Umuhoza and David Kinzuzi, students from Kepler University, are the duo behind the winning project, 'My Green Home Project.'

The environmental conservation innovative project is designed to deal with waste management by recycling waste into fertilisers and pavers.

The competition was organised to bring voices and ideas of Rwanda's young people to the forefront of development discussions and promote innovation.

Michael Adjei, the Airtel Rwanda managing director, said during Transform Africa Summit in Kigali last week, they debated on how Rwanda can expedite digital transformation.

"This is an initiative that was started here in Rwanda, but is no longer an asset of Rwanda, it is African asset. This should leave a lot of pride in us, as Rwandans, because we have started developing an exportable idea to Africa and beyond," he said.

Adjei said to breakthrough digital transformation for Africa, the continent needs to develop infrastructure and content.

"In Rwanda today, I don't think we have problems with infrastructure because we have 4G internet and fibre optic. The next step is to develop relevant content and solutions that would bring benefits to the people of Rwanda, and that is why we brought today's Pitch Night," Adjei said.

"We want to see ideas coming into reality, reality coming into solutions, solutions coming into value, and value benefiting Rwandan population."

He told the youth that people are not interested in project presentations but solutions.

Ted Maly, UNICEF country representative, hailed the young entrepreneurs for their innovations.

He commended the Government for supporting opportunities in ICT innovations for the youth.

"I'm really looking forward to hearing about the solutions that advance development of the country, be it in health, education or environmental sustainability," he said.

Maly said the event gives voice to the ideas that young people have to shape their own future.

Winners speak

David Kinzuzi said they were surprised with win, adding that the next step is to seek partners in implementing the goal of creating green cities.

"Our project is really big; we will need to partner with government because we know the government has challenges of waste management, so partnership will help us in achieving the goal of creating a green city," he said.

Kinzuzi said during the implementation of their project, they will start by managing the Nduba landfill, but that as they grow, they will venture upcountry and later expand to other East African countries.

His colleague Umuhoza said they will start from making fertilisers from degradable waste and pavers from non-degradable waste.

Claudette Irere, the director general of ICT at the Ministry of Youth and ICT, said Rwandan youth have ideas and ability to shape their future.

"Don't be afraid to think big, and, most importantly, don't be afraid to fail along the way, because no one learns when they only experience success," she said.

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