Kizito Okechukwu. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency/ANA

JOHANNESBURG – During the past few weeks, I had the exciting opportunity of visiting the city of Kigali, in Rwanda.

I had a private audience there with the ministers of Information and communications technology and youth, and the permanent secretary to the minister of trade and commerce. 

This was subsequent to Rwanda winning a tightly-contested bid to host GEC+Africa 2019, part of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa, which falls under the Global Entrepreneurship Network umbrella, operating projects across the continent.

The GEC+Africa initiative was launched last year at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Joburg, which gathers investors, start-ups, accelerators and other entrepreneurial support organisations based in Africa. The 2019 event will be held from August 7-8 at Kigali Convention Centre. 

While in the city, I rubbed shoulders with chief executives and stakeholders of the various agencies in Rwanda that were responsible for submitting the successful GEC+Africa 2019 bid to the Global Entrepreneurship Network executive team a few months ago. 

I also experienced the warm hospitality and eagerness of the country’s leaders to host this milestone event. 

Since the genocide in 1994, the Rwandan economy has strengthened exponentially, mostly due to the agriculture and tourism sectors, supported by global awareness campaigns. 

The economy grew by 6.7 percent in the last quarter and recorded an unemployment rate of just 16 percent. The government’s ambition to reshape and empower its youth after the genocide is evident in its refurbished infrastructure and the various support and educational programmes that are in place. 

The youth make up most of the country’s 12 million or so people. Having met the principal of the College of Science and Technology at the University of Rwanda and its many young students, I was instantly inspired by their promise and self-motivation. 

It has become clear that the continent possesses an abundance of potential to transform its economy. 

After my visit, I am confident that Rwanda offers the ideal environment to convene entrepreneurs and those backing them to scale Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and performance. 

GEC+Africa is aligned with the AU Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want,” which aims to create an Africa where development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African citizens, especially the women and youth. GEC+Africa will focus on agriculture, education, energy, e-commerce, finance, health and technology.

GEC+Africa 2019 will also host African ministers, a vital missing link in the support system for entrepreneurs, who will discuss reforms for policies that continue to hinder the development of start-ups. 

GEC+Africa’s ministerial meeting, to be held as part of the global Start-up Nations Ministerial process, will be chaired by Vincent Munyeshyaka, the Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry. It will be co-hosted by Rosemary Mbabazi, the Rwandan Minister of Youth and Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, the Rwandan Minister of Information Technology and Communications. About 25 ministers from the continent are also expected to attend. 

The Global Entrepreneurship Network is working on creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem and we are pleased to learn that, in partnership with the government of Rwanda, it will be opening the doors of its Rwanda branch. 

As a prelude to hosting GEC+Africa 2019, Rwandans will celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week from November 9-16.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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