Start-ups, Investors, Politicians, and a lot of Agriculture – One Week in Kigali

Thomas Festerling, GreenTec CFO and His Honor Simon Kiprono Khelugui, Kenya’s Minister for Water and Sanitation

Kigali (Rwanda), September 2019. Last week, our CFO Thomas Festerling was in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on a visit with one of our companies, ARED, as well as attending the AGRF, and being a jury member for the Pitch AgriHack 2018 Pitch Day competition and discovering the local ecosystem.

Tom’s trip started with a happy coincidence: on the way to Nairobi, Thomas had the opportunity to meet the honorable Simon Kiprono Khelugui, Kenya’s Minister for Water and Sanitation. They had an in-depth conversation about Kenya’s plans to bring clean water to all parts of the country. Of course, the subject of our Portfolio Company Boreal Light came up. As the company has already deployed four of more than 20 planned Water Kiosks in Kenya for 2018 and plans to deploy more than 50 more in 2019 we discussed possible collaborations with the ministry on helping to provide solutions to providing water to the more than 34 million rural living Kenyans. We were delighted to have this opportunity and are looking forward to further planned discussions.

The start of the week was focused on visiting with ARED. Thomas joined a visit with some potential investors in touring the main office, visiting several of the new Shiriki-Hubs, as well as some of ARED’s partners. All of them were very interested and confirmed the interest in the space ARED is active in and its tremendous growth potential. Especially the visit to Irembo/Rwanda Online’s COO Pierre Kayitana was an eye-opener. While Irembo is responsible for digitizing government services, they need partners for implementation, specifically for providing customer service and access points. The digital Shiriki-Hub’s connectivity services and trained agents provide an ideal distribution channel for their services and Mr. Kayiatan confirmed that the performance of ARED’s agents is excellent.

On Tuesday night, Thomas attended a reception hosted by the German Parliamentary State secretary Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, who was also visiting Rwanda during the week. The reception was a great opportunity to meet and interact with the German and International ecosystem of Kigali, including Ambassadors, Ministry and other Government representatives, as well as German business representatives.

On Wednesday, the AGRF officially started. With more than 2,000 delegates, it is one of the largest Agricultural conferences on African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders across the agricultural landscape to discuss practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward. The forum is organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in partnership with different international institutions, including CTA and the government of Rwanda. With a lot of workshops, presentations, and side events, it was a great networking opportunity. It was a great opportunity to meet a number of interesting start-ups, as well as the pleasure of seeing our own investees Farmcrowdy and Agrocenta in attendance.

The highlight of the visit was the Pitch AgriHack Final, where Thomas was honored to be part of the Jury, next to Professor Ruth Oniang’o; former winner of the African Food Prize; Ethel Cofie; Founder of EDEL technology also named as one of the Top Five Women impacting IT in Africa; Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, Managing Director of the African Innovation Foundation; and Chiji C Ojukwu, former Director of the Department of Agriculture and Agro-industry at the African Development Bank.

The performance of the startups was above average from what we usually see and we were inspired to see that more than 50% of the Founders were women. The finalists presented very innovative solutions, focused on new technologies or combing existing technologies to solve challenges in the agriculture space. GreenTec will start discussions with some of the finalists – and not just the winners – to see which one we could develop further using GreenTec investment approach.

The awards were presented in front of were presented in front of a gathering of African leaders including: H.E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda; H.E. William Samoei Arap Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya; H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President, Republic of Ghana; H.E. Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Prime Minister, Republic of Gabon. H. E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda said in his closing address, “The knowledge, experience and goodwill in evidence at this forum shows that we have everything we need to succeed. It is up to us working together to drive the necessary change in our respective communities and organisations.” GreenTec could not agree more with those sentiments.

The week in Kigali was really worth the trip as always – but time passed too quickly. But GreenTec will be back, this time in three weeks, as Greentec CEO Erick Yong will also be in Kigali and also follow up on some of the activities we started. Looking forward to be back soon.

 

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