HEC Students Visit Africa’s Startup Hub
HEC’s Master in Sustainability and Social Innovation (SASI) reached its 2019 climax when over 50 mainly SASI students, accompanied by a staff member and an academic, spent 10 days in the East African nation of Rwanda. The historic visit coincided with the nation’s 25th annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide.
“We have tried with humility to understand the complexity of this country, simultaneously difficult, surprising and with a painful history.” SASI Executive Director Deborah Keraghel reflected a general feeling amongst the students of emotion at the ability of an entire population to heal the scars of last century’s last genocide.
The April 12-21 study trip had allowed the students to witness the dynamism of one of Africa’s most resilient economies. In this, they were assisted by the Rwanda Development Board and guided by the months of organization from five SASI students. “I was really impressed by the resilience of the Rwandans,” commented student Astrid Bertrand, “by their ambition of development and by their faith in their leader. What I will remember is that Rwanda is characterized by its “seriousness”, that is to say a very stable and very ambitious government, which allows it to be the darling of development finance institutions.”
World Leaders in Gender, Sustainability and Startups
The students visited and exchanged with a wide gamut of businesses, educational institutes, development structures and financial bodies. These included an Impact Hub Kigali focused on innovation and entrepreneurship; the UTZ label and program for sustainable farming; the African Leadership University; the Abahizi Fashion Factory; and the Zipline startup which transports blood by drones to local hospitals. “I learnt so much throughout the week,” said the Master Thesis Director and Sr. Vice-president of Energy at the SNCF Group, Olivier Menuet. “From the visits to the Genocide Memorial, the city of Kigali and the countryside, to the meetings with key engaged people in a booming economy. On a personal basis, I must admit that I discovered that I still have a lot to learn on Sustainability.”
Rwanda is a world leader in environmental programs such as the banning of plastic bags and the involvement of women in key political, financial and business sectors. It has been nicknamed the Startup Nation of Africa. Keraghel summed it up as “a land of opportunity for entrepreneurs” pointing to the ambitious roadmap for the future characterized by Vision 2020 and NST1 “National Strategy for Transformation 2017-2024”.