The East African ‘knowledge laboratory’, kLab, has been helping young Rwandan entrepreneurs turn simple ideas into fully-fledged start-up companies for the last six years. It already has 200 success stories under its belt, but its founder, Aphrodice Mutangana, isn’t ready to stop there.
In Rwanda, a country where 75% of the population is under 25 years old, getting good professional support can be tough, especially in the tech world. Which is where kLab steps in. This pre-incubator gives young Rwandan entrepreneurs access to digital knowhow and business training so that they can turn their good ideas into viable businesses.
Founded un 2012 in Kigali, it offers free open-space offices, open 24 hours a day, with Wi-Fi, meeting rooms and a relaxation area. It also organises quarterly pitching sessions to give the start-ups the chance to meet potential investors and raise anything from 25 000 to 1 million dollars.
Making kLab indispensable
With 1 700 members, the incubator has already proven its worth with the creation of 200 tech-related companies, 60 of which have reached business maturity, and 4 of which are market leaders. Two have spread their wings internationally: GiraICT, which sets up monthly payments to give low-revenue individuals access to smart devices, and AC Group, which—specialised in electronic payments on public transport—has a current net worth of 10 million dollars and employs 100 people.
It should come as no surprise that Aphrodice Mutangana (who won the TV5Monde innovation award in 2017) calls herself a social entrepreneur. She believes that community should be the base of all change, and is persuaded that she will be a major player in Africa’s digital transformation. That is why kLab (installed on the 6th floor of Kigali’s Telecom House, a government building that houses start-ups and tech companies) wants its space to remain free of charge, as a place of sharing, transmission and exchange.
Conceived as a community platform, kLab is supported by mentors from both the private and university sectors, and has developed expertise in open innovation. Aphrodice Mutangana’s next project? KLab City. “Our own private space, with a stadium, a hospital and hotels,” she says. “I want KLab to become an indispensable place, somewhere that everyone coming Kigali wants to see.” After all, tech tourism exists in Silicon Valley. Why not in Rwanda?