German firm promises jobs, innovation as it launches startup Haus in Kigali

WesterWelle Startup Haus

By George Aine

Westerwelle Foundation, a German-based organization, on Monday, opened startup Haus, an incubation center for startups in Kigali, Rwanda, vowing to equip thousands of youth in the country with skills that will enable them to innovate and create their own jobs.

Dubbed ‘Westerwelle Startup Haus Kigali’, the hub will be powered by Evonik Foundation.

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Michael Mronz, the Foundation chairman, said that the plan involves giving a home to people who are thinking to develop their own companies and give them a chance to establish their ventures as well as build capacities.

“We are convinced that the Startup Haus will become a central place for startups from Kigali and East Africa as well. We will be hosting events to transfer knowledge, as well as those focusing on how to finance ideas,” he said, adding that they will work to facilitate the startups to access capital from German investors.

The Foundation programme manager, Guido von Westerholt, said members of the Startup Haus will also receive training on machines like laser cutters, 3D printers, textile machines and electronic tools to work on hardware products and prototypes.

“In addition, we plan to add relevant business and maker workshops tailored to the needs of our members and the startup community. Business-related workshops will, for example, include financial management, product-market-fit, design thinking, prototyping, and lean startup methodology,” he explained.

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Mr. Thomas Wessel, the Director of Evonik Industries, highlighted the importance of the Westerwelle Startup Haus for offering not only traditional co-working services but serving especially for young entrepreneurs as a hub to gain practical and technical skills.

He stressed how important it was for young people to have a good education, and that the Startup Haus in Kigali would do its part to support young people in Rwanda to gain practical and useful skills.

Rwanda’s Trade and Industry Minister, Vincent Munyeshyaka, who officiated at the opening, said that the establishment of the hub was aligned with the Government’s programme of promoting small and medium enterprises for job creation and for economic growth.

The hub, in partnership with the Government of Germany, has a special programme designed for women who want to become future technology-savvy.

It is one of the programmes that Mronz said is training a generation of women passionate about ICT.

The startup House offers not only 150 workplaces but also consulting and training packages.

Since its soft-launch, in August 2018, the Westerwelle Startup House has welcomed more than 80 associates from 21 different startups.


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