For five years, the Swedish Norrsken Foundation has been helping social technology entrepreneurs in Africa and elsewhere solve societal and environmental problems by investing financially in their ideas.
In one of its newest ventures, the non-profit organization is building East Africa’s largest startup hub, in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
The hub, called Norrsken House Kigali, plans to host 1,000 entrepreneurs by the end of this year. To attract them, he is betting on the relative ease of doing business in Rwanda and the country’s desire to position itself as a proof-of-concept country.
What is the role of startup hubs?
Startup hubs play an important role in the development of the African tech ecosystem. They promote innovation for tech startups. They help companies scale and achieve their goals by providing workspaces, electricity, internet connectivity and other infrastructure, incubation programs, business advice and legal services, as well as other forms of assistance.
The number of tech hubs in Africa stood at 618 in 2019, according to a report by the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator program and research firm Briter Bridges. Examples include iHub in Kenya, Wennovation Hub in Nigeria and Silicon Cape Initiative in South Africa.
The Norrsken Foundation plans 25 hubs around the world
The Norrsken Foundation already has a start-up center in Stockholm which houses more than 300 entrepreneurs.
Norrsken House Kigali, which opened in December 2021, is the first of 25 hubs the foundation plans to open around the world over the next decade. It currently hosts 250 entrepreneurs.
The hub wants to offer entrepreneurs infrastructure, networks and capital, explains Pascal Murasira, managing director of Norrsken East Africa. “These three elements are crucial and much easier to access if you are part of a hub rather than being scattered and trying to survive on a day-to-day basis,” he told Quartz.
Murasira believes it is important to create hubs such as Norrsken House Kigali to address the three challenges and help African startups raise more early stage funding.
Rwanda is a proof of concept country
For the Norrsken Foundation, Rwanda is an ideal base because it is easy to do business, has good road and internet infrastructure, strong academic institutions and is geographically well connected to other East African countries. , says founder Niklas Adalberth.
Rwanda can be an attractive destination for startups because it has established itself as a proof of concept country where businesses can take their ideas and innovations and test them before scaling them to the rest of the continent. Notably, Zipline, an American logistics company, used Rwanda to prove its concept of delivering medical supplies and blood to hospitals and has now expanded to deliver packages to Ghana and the United States and plans to take off in Nigeria and Japan.
“Let’s say you have a crazy innovation anywhere in Africa or the world and you want a place to prototype your innovation, Rwanda is a perfect place to do that,” says Murasira.
The Norrsken Foundation also runs an accelerator: the Norrsken Impact Accelerator, which is a pre-seed program that invests up to $100,000 in early-stage startups that leverage technology.
Last month, the foundation launched Norrsken22 African Tech Growth Fund, a $200 million tech growth fund for African startups.
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