Varsity students bubbling with inventive science-related business ideas | The New Times

Three projects by students from the University of Rwanda (UR) were on Friday, August 5, recognized as promising and innovative business ideas that need funding.

The winners Diane Mumararungu, 23, Aline Ihirwe Uwase, 22, and Hubert Benjamin Ishimwe, 24, were awarded by Startup Germany-Africa (StArfrica), a cooperation project between the University of Rwanda and the University of Koblenz-Landau, in Germany.

StArfrica is a research and innovation project which trains University of Rwanda students in entrepreneurship and job-readiness.

At least 17 students contested after being coached on project management, entrepreneurship skills, accounting and finance basics, effective pitching, marketing and sales. The awards were in the form of further coaching and incubation to develop their ideas and make them more attractive to potential funders.

Eco-friendly street lights

Mumararungu, a final-year student studying architecture, was the overall winner for her project – “Rwanda Green Lighting” – which seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The project will reduce greenhouse gases that are polluting the air and causing climate change,” she told Doing Business.

“My project idea is about producing street lights with their respective energy source by using greenhouse gases so that greenhouse gases are transformed into street lights with their respective energy. No one is currently using this kind of technology in Rwanda.”

The winners recommend that youth’s startups should be funded so as to scale up the innovative projects since many startups by the youth are failing to take off.

According to Start-up Genome’s “Global Start-up Ecosystem Report 2019,” 11 out of 12 fail, mostly due to premature scaling.

Cross-border money transfer

Uwase, a final-year student studying irrigation and drainage, was the first runner-up. Her business idea is about developing a money transfer platform.

“My idea is about money transfer without borders. I am doing a mobile App that will enable Rwandans to send money to people in Germany and those in Germany can send money to people in Rwanda,” she said.

Uwase wants to scale up the project in Africa and Europe once it starts.

“I am building on the existing ideas to make a better one. I want to use blockchain technology in developing a money transfer application,” she said. Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network.

“We still need a lot since we are still at an idea phase. We still need more knowledge and funds to run the project. Many ideas need funds to get implemented because startups don’t have money,” she said.

Smart irrigation

Ishimwe who is studying electrical power engineering was the second runner-up, recognized for his smart irrigation business idea on how to cope with drought.

He said: “The smart irrigation business will be using technology that is automatic. We will be installing sensors in the farmers’ fields. These sensors will be able to detect humidity levels in the soil and command the system to irrigate crops automatically without the presence of people on the farm as it will have features that control the farm remotely. It has to know when crops need irrigation.”

Ishimwe hopes his creation will significantly boost agricultural production in the country.

“Farmers will be able to exploit all agriculture seasons in the whole year whether in the rainy season or the dry season. The idea needs support as it is in line with the vision of transforming agriculture and addressing food insecurity.”

Rwanda targets to irrigate 102, 284 hectares by 2024.

The StArfrica project is implemented on a pilot basis in Rwanda. It has a team based at the Institute for Scientific Entrepreneurship at the University of Koblenz as well as on-site at the University, in Kigali.

In Rwanda, the project aims to identify and promote business ideas and Rwandan start-ups, and advise and support them.

StArfrica plans to launch a Kigali-based incubator to support and grow science-related business ideas of young Rwandans.

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