Rwandan Scoops Top Job at France-Africa Digital Initiative

1 December 2020

Aphrodice Mutangana, a Rwanda tech enthusiast has been appointed as Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Operations Officer at Digital Africa, an initiative launched in 2018 by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The initiative was established to develop expertise, provide technical assistance, finance projects and businesses, ease market access and the creation of a regulatory environment that supports African innovation.

Mutangana was prior to his appointment the General Manager of Klab, a tech innovation space in Kigali, where he had worked for five years.

At Digital Africa, he will deputize Stéphan Eloïse Gras.

At the global entity, Mutangana's tasks will include setting the base for Africa Digital's work on the continent such as building networks and partnerships as well as ensuring maximum impact in programmes that they are involved in.

"He will be involved in developing the mission and ensuring we meet our objectives and establishing digital African locally, he is based in Kigali for now. We are looking at establishing our African presence with local offices and partnering with existing players. His responsibility will be to animate the network of partners among other tasks," Gras said.

At the organisation's disposal is Euro 130M financing from the French Development Agency (AFD) to ensure innovative companies receive capital to support their development.

Of these Euro 55M has been allocated to cover early-stage startup development, as well as incubators and seed funding, Euro70M for venture capital and Euro 5 million in bridge funding to support startups impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gras, the Executive Director who is currently in Rwanda, said that they are mapping out and reaching potential partners to work with in their various objectives.

The local partners will be involved in implementation and acceleration of initiatives and at the same time ensure relevance.

Among the opportunities that Rwandan start-ups can look out for in the coming days include scholarship programmes for skills and expertise, avenues access to capital as well as input in policy advocacy.

The agency's work on the continent will also include facilitating access to markets to support start-ups access more opportunities across the continent

For instance three weeks ago, the agency launched a €5 million Bridge Fund to avail capital to young innovative African companies whose development is harmed by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (such as cancelled or delayed fundraising processes) with Rwandans invited to apply on the agency's website.

"For us, Rwanda is particularly interesting both as a hub for the financial and tech services and previous investment in supporting tech over the years. We are looking for partners to work with in Rwanda in our various initiatives," Gras said.

The agency said that they are working to increase the amounts available for digital entrepreneurs, not only French financing but global and African financing through working together with communities of venture capitalists.

"We are also going to be working with the local ecosystem to support local players in sustainable and policy making that is conducive to sustainable and inclusive digital ecosystems. We will support local players to establish an environment that is compliant with the needs of the digital ecosystem," she said.

Commenting on his new mandate and objectives, Mutangana said that they will be looking to create partnerships that can have impact across the continent.

Digital Africa is currently engaging a number of government and private sector entities including Rwanda Finance Limited, Rwanda Development Board, and Banks among others.

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