Innovation Fund

Innovation Fund
Group photo of the launch participants

Graduate Genocide Survivors’ Organisation (GAERG), the association of student survivors of Genocide (AERG), and the Survivors Fund (SURF) have launched an entrepreneurship innovation fund intended to support youth’s income-generating projects.

The fund, launched on Friday, started with $50,000 (Rwf40 million) donated by an American entrepreneur, Andrew Cohen, which the organisations say is a seed that needs to be nurtured.

The slogan of the project is “Start small, grow it, earn more.”

Since 2012, under the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme (YETP), AERG and SURF supported by different private donors, have trained about 800 young people to start their own business.

The training covered several areas including job creation, youth competitiveness, interviewing techniques and confidence-building.

However, many of them struggled to take the next step and start their business due to lack of funding, according to their statement.

The new Fund start with supporting 50 graduates, according to GAERG president Olivier Camarade Mazimpaka, who added that the beneficiaries’ projects will be chosen based on innovation, viability and competitiveness.

Talking about the challenges facing graduate survivors, he said that some lead a more difficult life than they were at university because they no longer get the monthly stipend or accommodation support they used to get, under the auspices of the government scholarship, fund while at campus.

Other difficulties particular to the young graduate survivors include lack of early career guidance because their parents or relatives, who ideally would guide them in one way or another, were killed during the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

“Young graduates need training, follow-up and advice so that they effectively implement what they learnt,” he said.

Among the challenges young graduates’ projects face include lack of technical skills to make competitive and quality products, insufficient business management skills and entrepreneurship values.

According to Regis Umugiraneza, the head of agro-processing cluster at Rwanda Youth in Agri-business Forum (RYAF), some areas of intervention need special attention.

Umugiraneza, who graduated from the University of Rwanda in 2014, is one of the beneficiaries of YETP and started a project engaged in making bread, chips and cakes from sweet potatoes.

He has been employing six people, and wants to diversify his products by making sweet potato biscuits, but he lacks, advanced equipment to grow his business.

“We need this fund; it comes at the right time” he said.

Growing Businesses with the Innovation Fund

YETP’s Innovation Fund Project Manager Tiziano Karangwa said that the Fund will finance both survivors and other graduates’ projects, which have been in existence for at least one year.

He explained that the money that will be given for project development will be returned by the beneficiary after a given period of time so that other graduates can also benefit from the Fund.

Rwanda Development Board (RDB)’s Chief Financial Officer, Mark Nkurunziza, said that the government is committed to helping young entrepreneurs access finance mainly though the Business Development Fund (BDF).

In November 2016, BDF announced that it had used Rwf15.9 billion to guarantee small and medium entreprises (SMEs).

“The ‘seed’ from Cohen can increase tenfold or even 100 times through contribution by other people,” he said.

A business competition will be organised followed by a youth camp for the graduates whose projects will have been selected.

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