Rwanda may be one of the smallest countries on the African continent, but it’s certainly not afraid of taking the lead on economic and political issues. For example, Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament (64%) and over 90% of the population has access to private health insurance. Amazingly, Rwanda was also the first country in the world to legislate an outright ban on plastic bags in 2007! Not bad for a country many people in the UK and throughout the Western world, are still too afraid to visit.
However, it’s the country’s ability to entrench a truly entrepreneurial spirit into the fabric of Rwandan society that intrigues me the most. A topic covered in depth by Catherine Honeyman in her upcoming book ‘The Orderly Entrepreneur’.
Rwanda has shrugged off international aid, in order to pursue an increasingly independent path, guided by a devout commitment to entrepreneurship as a beacon for 21st century economic growth. This is a strategy that starts at a grass roots level in schools, with an Entrepreneurship Curriculum, first implemented in 2007, as required learning in secondary schools across the country.
The African Entrepreneur Collective is one of the leading business accelerators in Rwanda, and symbolises the growing levels of support and guidance made available to local Rwandan Entrepreneurs. The country recognises that the best opportunity to drive economic development and meet President Kagame’s goal of ‘increasing GDP by seven times over a generation’, is through the growth of the private sector, and Entrepreneurs play a vital role in diversifying industry, and creating jobs. It’s a fairly simple concept, and one that lies at the heart of what the AEC have set out to achieve.
‘The African Entrepreneur Collective believes that in order to create more jobs in Africa, we find the people who are already creating jobs, and help them do it better.’
Business Accelerators such as the AEC, combined with a clear strategy and vision laid out by the Rwandan government have helped the country make significant progress over the last decade. Rwanda was the only African country to be ranked within the top ten of the World Banks ‘Ease Of Doing Business Report’ and in 2011, Global Entrepreneurship Week (the world’s largest celebration of entrepreneurs) was brought to Rwanda, engaging 12,000 people across the country through 26 local events.
The Run Rwanda initiative has a clear objective to document the stories of a selection of Rwanda’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, shining a light on the unparalleled progress this tiny East African country has made within one generation.
In Rwanda, a business can be started in 48 hours. It typically takes 11.1 days on average to start an enterprise in OECD high-income countries. Not only do typical Western perceptions need to change, but it’s clear that in times of increasing economic unrest and uncertainty back home in the UK, we can all learn a thing or two from a country that had no right to succeed, but is well on it’s way to becoming Africa’s first Entrepreneurial State.