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Abraham Augustin : “Norrsken actively contributes to shaping Rwanda’s tech landscape”

The Norrsken Foundation, based in Sweden, established a strategic presence in Kigali in 2022, marking a significant milestone in the development of the regional ecosystem. With an initial investment of $20 million, Norrsken aims to make Kigali a technological and entrepreneurial leader in Africa. Insights from Abraham Augustin, Head of Communications, Marketing, and Programs at Norrsken East Africa.

Could you remind us of Norrsken’s mission, activities, and impact since your establishment in Rwanda?

Norrsken’s mission is to inspire impact entrepreneurship. We believe that entrepreneurship can be a force for good, positively affecting both people and the planet. As a result, our work focuses on inspiring more entrepreneurs and talent to work for impact. By impact, we refer to ventures that create a net positive effect on people and the planet, ensuring that social benefits do not come at the expense of planetary resources.

Another crucial aspect is technology entrepreneurship. We believe technology is a powerful tool to scale impact. While any business can have an impact, technology allows solutions to reach more people, whether through software or hardware like computers and smartphones, similar to how we use Momo to send money in Rwanda.

Norrsken operates under several pillars, with one of the key pillars being our houses. Think of these houses as places where resources, networks, and learning opportunities for impact entrepreneurs are concentrated

Norrsken operates under several pillars, with one of the key pillars being our houses. Think of these houses as places where resources, networks, and learning opportunities for impact entrepreneurs are concentrated.

 Why did you choose Rwanda as the location for your first hub in Africa?


There was an opportunity to do something significant, and we seized it because Rwanda has a strong ambition to become a hub for technological entrepreneurship. There was a promising space and a visionary local leader, the former Managing Director, who was respected and took ownership of the project. When all these elements came together, and Rwanda had this ambitious policy to become a tech hub, it created the right environment. We have also explored similar opportunities in other parts of Africa, Europe, and the US. Wherever we find the right local people to drive the vision, we are happy to expand with the right people, resources, and environments.

How has Norrsken evolved since its opening in Rwanda? What has been the impact?

Norrsken was founded in Rwanda three years ago. Since then, we have built a community of around 12,000 people inspired by what Norrsken represents. We hope this community grows even larger, but it all starts with getting people excited and willing to be part of the movement. Over 300 companies now call Norrsken their home in Kigali. Some of these companies have raised investment from Norrsken, like Edencare, which was part of the 2021 accelerator and became the first Rwandan company to be accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator program in San Francisco. Others, like Fixa, have also received investments and expanded beyond Rwanda and Norrsken, such as Huza. This growth prompted us to expand and build a new facility, increasing our capacity to host 1,500 members at the hub in Kigali.


You have also launched a fund dedicated to Africa. How does it operate, and what are its objectives and impacts?

We actually operate two funds, although one hasn’t been publicly launched yet. Norrsken22 is a $205 million fund that invests in growth-stage companies. We look for the best mature startups that are promising and have a positive impact on people’s lives and the environment. We support these companies at a growth stage, providing the capital they need to scale. The other fund is the Africa Seed Fund, which focuses on promising early-stage companies. These funds operate independently across the continent, with offices in South Africa, Lagos, and Nairobi. So far, they have invested in dozens of companies.

You recently inaugurated a new building, which confirms the appeal of Norrsken. How do you envision the evolution of the Rwandan tech ecosystem, and in what ways have you contributed to its development?

Norrsken has contributed in several ways. Our former Managing Director, Pascal Murasira, was part of the team that worked on the Rwanda startup bill. Norrsken has elevated the profile of tech entrepreneurship in Rwanda. The landscape of tech entrepreneurship and companies in Rwanda has transformed significantly over the past five years, and we are proud to be part of that change. We host some of the most proficient and respected Rwandan tech companies. Some companies have outgrown our space, prompting us to expand with a new building to retain current companies and attract more members. We believe there is an opportunity for East African companies not yet in Rwanda to establish a presence here, and our goal with the new building is to create the right conditions to host more impact companies and inspire more people to take the path of impact entrepreneurship.

The landscape of tech entrepreneurship and companies in Rwanda has transformed significantly over the past five years, and we are proud to be part of that change

Finally, you address the funding challenges faced by African startups. How do you better support them through the Norrsken experience, and what do they concretely need?

Norrsken House does not directly invest in startups. Investments come from the Norrsken funds, which are independent entities with a clear mandate to invest in commercially viable startups. Our role is to inspire and support startups by raising their profile and giving them access to learning resources to prepare for investment. We create the right environment for entrepreneurs to connect with investors, holding learning sessions, launch events, office hours, and using our communication channels to highlight members. This environment makes it easier for members to secure investments.

You invite other funds to join you in this ambition. Is the Rwandan tech sector, and African tech in general, attractive to international investors?

Yes, it depends on the type of investor. There are various types of investors and investments, so not everything appeals to everyone. However, there are definitely opportunities to make investments. The key is to connect the right opportunities with the right types of investments. Not everyone will get funding from VCs, but there are other options like grant funding, equity funding, loans, and private equity. Africa has these opportunities and is attractive to different types of investors, including Rwanda.

To conclude, what are your future projects and objectives in Rwanda and Africa over the coming months? Our goal is to catalyze more investments and build solutions that benefit the planet. We want more people to take the path of impact entrepreneurship, creating companies that seriously address planetary issues while being great places to work. This can be achieved by catalyzing capital that allows these companies to scale. We aim to do this from Rwanda, for Africa, and the entire world.

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