We visited Rwanda for two reasons:
- To launch £40 million of new Energy Catalyst funding at the International Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) conference.
- To host 20 UK companies on a brokerage mission. Some of the companies are included in the Energy Catalyst Rwanda 2022 brochure.
The goal of the brokerage mission was to find business opportunities, both in Rwanda and through international connections forged at the conference.
The trip could not have started better. We visited Munyax in downtown Kigali where CEO Francine Munyaneza gave an inspirational talk to our delegates about her business, both the technologies and the business models.
She also provided context about doing business and raising investment in the Rwandan market. Munyax is a good example, they are seeking the next round of investment to provide working capital to enable further scaling. The target is USD 1.6 million from local and international investors.
Munyax are already the local partner for Solariskit, a UK-based Energy Catalyst funded company producing solar hot water systems for the African market. It was great to see one of Solariskit’s units on the roof of Munyax’s building, providing them with hot water. Following Francine’s talk, several of the other brokerage companies could see the potential of using Munyax as a local partner too.
Rwanda: a great place for business
Next stop was the British High Commission in Rwanda. The High Commission team gave an excellent insight into the Rwandan market. Some of the messages conveyed included:
- Rwanda is very open to business, especially as a market for testing and piloting innovation
- the risk of corruption is very low
- there are good relations across the East African region providing business scaling opportunities.
World Bank data shows that Rwanda is a great place to start a business. Rwanda experienced 7.2% annual average growth rates in the decade to 2019, and is the second ranked country in Africa (and 38th globally) for ease of doing business. This ‘enabling business environment’ is demonstrated by the fact that it takes only four days to start a business.
Within 24 hours we had all be charmed by Rwanda, including the visible investment in infrastructure and growing private investment. The cleanliness of the streets and quality of the food were further indicators as well as the vibrancy of local businesses.
The SEforAll conference
The next couple of days were focused on the SEforAll conference. The President of Rwanda, gave the keynote speech, highlighting the importance of energy access in Rwanda.
The World Bank reports that around 46% of the Rwandan population have access to energy. Although this is significant growth since 2010 when it was 10%, there is still half the population to reach, and with it, business opportunities. Particularly as Rwanda’s national strategy for transformation targets 100% energy access for all by 2024.
United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Michael Bloomberg’s speeches set out the global importance of the energy transition. Highlighting the needs and opportunities in providing energy access to all, in a just and inclusive transition.
The highlight of day two was Alice Goodbrook giving the keynote and announcing £40 million funding for Energy Catalyst rounds nine and 10. Later in the day Alice and team hosted a workshop to help companies interested in applying for funding. The funding is available to accelerate a clean, affordable, and reliable energy transition in:
- sub-Saharan Africa
- South Asia
- Indo-Pacific regions.
Energy Catalyst round nine competition information is now available.
The week was rounded off with a visit to a previously funded Energy Catalyst project led by Solapak Systems, to provide solar electricity for a milk processing cooperative. As well as milk processing it is expected that the facility will act as an energy access hub for other businesses to support rural commercial development.
During a whirlwind four days, we saw companies and projects that are already successful in Rwanda, and a wealth of future opportunities. At the conference it was clear that the Energy Catalyst programme is playing a critical part in the international effort towards a just and inclusive transition to affordable, clean energy.
Trips like this, to build alliances internationally, visit existing projects and understand local contexts are critical to feedback into the scope and design of future funding. Hopefully, through communicating success stories like this, you have been inspired to partner internationally in support of the global clean energy agenda.
If this has inspired you?
If this has inspired you, round nine of Energy Catalyst funding is open for applications until 10 August 2022. Further details:
- Energy Catalyst round nine: early stage
- Energy Catalyst round nine: mid stage
- Energy Catalyst round nine: late stage.
The Energy Catalyst programme is aligned with the UN sustainable development goal seven (SDG7), providing affordable and clean energy.
Top image: Outside the International Conference Centre in Kigali. Credit: Ian Meikle