Transforming Tomorrow: UNLEASH Rwanda Ignites Innovation for Sustainable Development

UNLEASH, a global innovation platform that mobilizes youth from around the world to co-create a sustainable future, has brought it’s one week innovation Lab to Africa for the first time. Thus far, they have engaged 7,000 young talents from 172 countries and have hosted previous Innovation Labs in Denmark, Singapore, China, Greenland, and India.

(Kigali, Rwanda) UNLEASH Rwanda will gather 1000 young change makers from around the world to participate in a one-week-long Innovation Lab December 2-8. With UNLEASH Rwanda Talents coming from 136 countries, 70% of the world’s countries will be represented, including 100 Rwanda-based refugees. The Opening Ceremony took place at the Kigali Convention Center, and its also where the Innovation Lab will take place.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister DR. Edouard NGIRENTE, highlighted this event marks another milestone in the journey that brings together young changemakers to collaborate and innovate to solve current and emerging pressing challenges.

He noted that Rwanda has hosted two significant gatherings in the buildings that were about youth and innovation: The Kigali Economic Forum and the Innovation Africa 2023 Summit.

He said, “During these events, we engaged in discussions that underscored among others untapped opportunities, the critical need to empower youth and enable them to contribute not only to shaping the future but also to influencing the trajectory of the entire globe.”

Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente said that today’s UNLEASH event is a real continuation of the discussions held from those previous gatherings, which reflect the collective commitment for youth entrepreneurship and promote innovative problem-solving approaches amongst the youth from across the globe.

“As we gather here, we are all united around the topic of Sustainable Development Goals, whose core objectives is to lead us to a better world that leaves no one behind and extends decent living to all”, he said.

He continued saying that however, the world is still facing various challenges that have set back the progress of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include more than 1 billion people living in urban slums, climate change, poverty, inequalities in different societies, youth unemployment, and most recently, the impact of COVID-19, the young talents are the ones to address these challenges.

He said, “Today, over 16% of the global population are young people aged 15-24 years. This represents the most innovative and creative global demographic. Therefore, you understand the exceptional asset that you are to the world. You are a powerful force for change and development, so take on that mantle with honor and zeal, you have all our trust and support.”

Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente concluded noting that development partners need to provide technical and financial support, whereas youth and private sector are to bring innovative solutions to today’s global development challenges.

“To achieve all these, collaboration is essential”, he concluded.

During her intervention, Hon. Paula INGABIRE, Minister of ICT and Innovation, highlighted the Government of Rwanda acknowledges innovation as one of its key drivers of growth for not only solving the socio-economic challenges but also for creating jobs, expressing Rwanda’s honor to host UNLEASH’s innovation Lab to Africa for the first time.  

“Rwanda is honored to host UNLEASH’s first Innovation Lab in Africa. Their commitment to diversity, innovation, and human-centered design is necessary if we are going to create global high-impact solutions. As a proof-of-concept hub, Rwanda is happy not only to host but hopes some of the solutions that emerge can be tested and implemented here,” she said.

UNLEASH aims to be the most inclusive global platform in the world and provides scholarships to cover the costs of transportation, accommodation, and food for all Talents to make the event accessible for all. UNLEASH Rwanda has partnered with UNHCR to bring 100 refugees based in Rwanda to join the program. After the Innovation Lab, UNLEASH Alumni will become a part of the global network. They can host Hacks in their local communities, become Ambassadors for future events, and apply for UNLEASH’s Incubator Program UNLEASH Plus.

Speaking to the gathering of dynamic young people from across the globe, Prof. Flemming Besenbacher, Chairperson of UNLEASH, expressed his profound gratitude to the Rwandan government for trusting in the idea of an UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Rwanda.

“Hosting the UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Rwanda is a true honor. As a thriving hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, Rwanda is the perfect backdrop for youth around the world to co-create solutions for a sustainable future,” he said.

“At UNLEASH, we put SDG 17, Partnerships for the Goals, at the forefront of everything we do: collaborating closely with our peers, organizations, and institutions. Having all of you here today would not have been possible without the support of our committed partners”, Prof. Flemming added.

UNLEASH Rwanda Talents will work together throughout the week to create scalable, sustainable solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The week will culminate with teams presenting at the solutions Festival and the top finalists advancing on to pitch their prototypes at Hanga Pitchfest 2023, Rwanda’s largest in-person technology event, bringing 1000-plus change makers from around the world into the room with Rwandan start-ups and innovators.

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