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African Innovation Lab: industry disruption for youth entrepreneurs in Rwanda

Break the mold: youth biz dev is getting stale. AIP's model will be an innovative lab to keep churning new ideas, HCD, and more.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The Lab will be a platform business development providers to test new models of support to young African entrepreneurs. Starting in 2017, The Lab’s focus will start in Rwanda and Tanzania where we are running programs already, but with some success will also be replicated in other African countries where business development services will have a solid market and impact for youth job creation.

WHO BENEFITS?

Young entrepreneurs across Rwanda & Tanzania will benefit -- in part because we're helping them directly, but in part because we're building the capacity of business development service providers to have models that are *more* innovative, *more* relevant, and *more* meaningful for the young people they serve. We'll be a lab of testing new ideas that will help BDS providers do their work better, creating a catalytic effect across Rwanda & Tanzania.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

African Innovation Prize (AIP) is a Rwandan nonprofit which unleashes the entrepreneurial potential of Rwandan youth through business plan competitions and training. Annually, we reach 1000 youth from across Rw and TZ. We work hard and we something is worth celebrating, we roast a goat.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

The overall goal to be a platform for innovations in business development has not changed. However, many insights from beneficiary feedback have allowed us to narrow down how to best serve young entrepreneurs who are starting out and need a solid framework to navigate the first days of their businesses.
We had discussions with Sonia Mugabo, a fashion designer in Rwanda, and one of the things she struggled with at the start was managing and planning her cash flow. She wishes she had knowledge in a format easy to use and understand without taking accounting courses. The Lab will develop a money management booklet for small businesses with easy to use multilingual templates that it will avail online for free download.
Jeff Pilisuk, the Managing Director of Inkomoko - a business accelerator in Kigali, acknowledged that the biggest problem facing youth in business is that they face untested business models. We proposed to run a Customer Journey HCD workshop as a preliminary test for how young entrepreneurs can better define their product-market fit. The workshop received amazing feedback with many requesting a repeat of the session to do a deeper dive in their own businesses.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

We will be introducing Human Centered Design within business ideation and management in Rwanda and Tanzania. Contextualizing in terms of language and also business environments will be The Lab’s greatest value addition.
We want entrepreneurship to be exciting for youth in East Africa by breaking barriers of access to actionable knowledge and skills in starting business. A young population skilled in the ability to build sustainable ventures will generate countless livelihood benefits for communities across the region.
Another unique aspect is that we will support Business Development Service (BDS) providers to better serve business men and women. By creating innovative products/services, as well as developing campaigns and events that are locally targeted, The Lab will be able to create a multiplier effect across the BDS ecosystem to generate even more impact.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

Recent statistics show that for Rwanda to attain a Middle Income Economy by 2020, 200,000 off farm jobs need to be created per year (from 2014). Over the past 3 years only 80,000 jobs were created indicating a growing number of unemployed and under employed young Rwandans, mostly due to a lack of business creation, as well existing businesses remaining stagnant with no growth plans and/or innovations to scale up significantly.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

A lot of the work that The Lab will be performing is very high touch, requiring many hours of interface with beneficiaries to be most effective. Based on this, some unanswered questions are:
- How to scale implementation of newly developed services as fast and effectively as possible
- Ways to leverage existing technologies to increase reach
- How to measure and control for impact of implementations
- Accounting for necessary support systems/environment beyond services provided

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

This idea is new to the organization. AIP activities have mainly centered around the business plan competition in universities in Rwanda and Tanzania over the past 5 years.
The African Innovation Lab will be different. It will engage with a broader audience not limited to universities and it will directly support entrepreneurs in managing their ventures.
The organization has already piloted some of the proposed interventions in the form of workshops with various groups and partners.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

The African Innovation Prize team will be devoted full time in implementing this idea.
The team is composed of Patrick Cyusa, who will oversee design and structure of programs, and strategy development. He has 5 years of experience in business development.He holds an MBA from Oklahoma Christian University. David Karuranga will oversee administration of services and manage logistics for all interventions. He holds a BA in Economics from the University of Rwanda and is a Mandela YALI fellow.

African Innovation Prize proposes a new “Innovation Lab” which is dedicated to research and development around Business Development Services for East African youth entrepreneurs. The mission of The Innovation Lab is to be able to test a market for the innovations and campaigns that are implemented by business development support providers.   We will be a think-tank to make sure that BDS continues to evolve, so that African entrepreneurs can stay as cutting edge as any of their counterparts across the globe.

The “INNOVATION LAB”, which we’ll refer to as The Lab, is motivated by the tremendous opportunities for business on the continent that can be accompanied by solid foundations of services to ease operations, management, and profitability. The Lab will be an experimentation ground to support AIP’s mission increasing job opportunities for the youth through interventions that spark business creation, and help expand existing ventures, and to support our partners to do the same.

We envision The Lab will be structured to accommodate as much flexibility in delivery and research through a three pronged approach: Innovations in Business Development, Campaigns & Events, and Revenue Generating Activities.

The Lab will design various business development products for testing within various countries based on context and interest. These products can be in any form: Workshops, Consultancy engagements, Up and Coming consultancy models.

The Lab will aim to create campaigns and events that are not only relevant for young entrepreneurs but also fun, interactive and super productive to participants. The motivation for this focus is that business events on the continent tend to be similar in format, stale and never generate continued interest beyond the event itself. The Lab will be a platform to try out new things in this field such as:

  • Modifying the our existing Business Plan competition to reach a broader audience, and maintaining our real focus on innovation
  • Working with young entrepreneurs to help them develop social metrics where they hadn’t thought of that before
  • Partnering with other business development services providers to help them get fresh approaches
  • Test out new major initiatives, like entrepreneurship development in a refugee settings

These are just few examples to guide the underlining philosophy of AIP’s lab to supporting the local East African population to create solutions that are homegrown and hence create local jobs.

African Innovation Prize (AIP) aims to unleash the entrepreneurial potential of youth in Rwanda through running business plan competitions and training support.  Annually, during our competition periods, more than 1000 youth from across Rwanda are provided with business creation and management training, mentorship by successful entrepreneurs, and grand prize seed funding to empower them in creating sustainable ventures and jobs. In the past five years, AIP has trained more than 3,500 young people and reviewed more than 1850 business ideas and plans. In the most recent impact survey spanning 2013-2015 winners, it was found that with 14.2 Million FRW in direct funding and pro-bono services from AIP, 17 youth were able to generate about 130 Million FRW in annual revenues, and created 120 jobs, an ROI of 10x. AIP winners have in turn gone on to raise additional investment worth $52,000 USD for their ventures.  But we believe we can help them do more.  Often, the young people who win our awards need long-term support to develop their ideas further.  We believe that we can help business development service providers to come up with more innovative ideas of support to match the needs of our entrepreneur winners.  AIP has two full-time staff, both Rwandan, and we pull in colleagues from various partner organizations to make our vision come to life – so we are well suited to help the do even more for the young people we serve.

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

In five years The African Innovation Lab will have supported the creation of more than 1000 Small and Medium businesses that are self sustained and growing steadily.

What are the crucial challenges that the youth face in East Africa that can be addressed through incubators and accelerators across the region?

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 100 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • Between 6 months and a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

Over the past 5 years, we have worked with many partners organizations in entrepreneurship development and have witnessed first hand the impact possibilities when organizations share and learn from each other.

Being part of Amplify's group of organizations would enable us to harness many of the innovations and insights that have worked in different parts of the world, and to contribute our part to a growing body of human centered design for business creation and development.

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Photo of Chelsea Takamine
Team

Hi Patrick and Team! Amplify and our experts have some comments and questions for you - we encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea.

-Implementing beneficiary feedback to improve on the existing idea and holding workshops to test business models shows human centered design is a major consideration point in this idea.
-What makes this hub stand out amongst the others in the field?

In case you missed it, OpenIDEO and Amplify hosted a Storytelling Office Hour - https://youtu.be/g0gZRR6T9tA. Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and help make it come to life! Don't forget - December 18th is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Patrick
Team

Thank you very much for the feedback Chelsea.

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