Doctoral student leads Rwanda enterprise initiative
An IfM doctoral student is playing a leading role in trying to find budding Bransons in poverty-stricken Rwanda. Julia Fan Li is one of a team of Cambridge students organising the African Innovation Prize business plan competition and Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week at the Kigali Institute for Science and Technology (KIST), Rwanda. The business plan competition for African students and the week-long conference grew out of Julia’s experience of entrepreneurship in both Cambridge and Rwanda: “In Cambridge we have so many resources to support students interested in enterprise (including CUE, CUTEC, iTeams). When I worked in Rwanda in 2009, I couldn’t help noticing that despite the entrepreneurial spirit of all the students I met, there was an absence of structured support for them to learn and apply their skills outside the classroom.”
Working with KIST University, Julia helped to establish the first African Innovation Prize competition in 2010. It was the country’s first business planning competition for students, designed to help those who wanted to set up their own business. The competition has already led to the creation and seed funding of one business - Rwanda Environmental Design Ltd – which is creating a decompostable toilet.
Now Julia, and her fellow organisers Sarah Teacher, Alex Handy, Jackie Stenson and Baillie Aaron, are hoping that the new conference will help provide a more structured approach to enterprise training. Learning from Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, the AIP organizers know that giving seed funding alone is not enough. Support, mentorship and a supportive ecosystem for enterprise are needed. Led by established Rwandan entrepreneurs and organised by the Cambridge team, the week, which runs from July 25 to 30, will enable students at KIST and other Rwandan universities to engage in product development, understand different business models, learn how to analyse a market, network, measure performance and fund their initiatives. The project – which has been backed by Brussels Airlines and retailer Staples – is still seeking financial support.
To find out more about the students’ work on Rwandan entrepreneurship, and support them in realizing the conference click here.
Follow them on Twitter: @AIPrize, or check out their blog.