Rwanda: Unleash Global Innovation Lab for SDGs Kicks Off in Kigali

Unleash, a non-profit organization committed to accelerating positive change toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has inaugurated its annual global innovation lab in Kigali.

The week-long event, taking place from December 2 to December 8, has gathered 1,000 youth from 136 countries, including 200 from Rwanda and 100 refugees. Among the key benefits, these young participants will have the opportunity to formulate ideas, gain insights from experts and industry professionals, and pitch their concepts during ‘Hanga Pitchfest’ on December 8.

Addressing the delegates at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente highlighted the importance of the SDGs and the challenges faced globally, including issues such as urban slums, climate change, poverty, inequalities, youth employment, and the impact of Covid-19.

“To tackle these challenges, a paradigm shift in our approach is imperative to meet the SDGs within the designated timelines. This is where each of you, the young talents present today, becomes pivotal. Currently, over 16 percent of the global population consists of young people aged between 15 and 24. This demographic represents the most innovative and creative force worldwide. Recognizing the exceptional assets that you bring to the world, it is crucial for the youth to fulfill their critical role in achieving sustainable growth. Equipping them with the necessary research skills is fundamental for unlocking their full potential to drive global transformation,” Ngirente said.

Flemming Besenbacher, the Chairperson of Unleash, highlighted the organization’s strategic decision to bring the innovation lab to Rwanda, emphasizing the country’s status as Africa’s foremost hub for entrepreneurship and events. He expressed Unleash’s commitment to fostering innovation by uniting the world’s top talents to collaborate on ideas, build networks, and create solutions aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This week each of these 1,000 youths will be put together with four other people in a group of five. That means that a Rwandan will have four other members in their whole group from maybe four different other continents. They will act as part of an international network so they can reach out to them. Maybe they will come and visit each other. I’ve seen many of these teams actually be friends for a lifetime or even create startups together to solve world challenges.”

On the subject of how Unleash aids youth in fully establishing solutions, Besenbacher explained: “Unleash has Unleash Plus, which is an incubator program. The youth selected go through it over six months, and we provide a comprehensive range of services to aid their projects into becoming viable ventures.”