UNDP Rwanda, the EU Re-commit to Investing in Youth Entrepreneurship

September 12, 2022

Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP's Regional Director exchanges MOU with Myriam Ferran, Deputy Director General at the European Commission,


Kigali, May 19th, 2022 - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Rwanda and the European Union (EU) have signed a funding agreement worth EUR 8 million to expand the socio-economic opportunities for youth. Through the Ministry of Youth and Culture, this support will enable the Government of Rwanda to harness innovation and creativity for youth-led businesses.

This unique program will accompany young entrepreneurs through developing a business idea, redefining their business model, launching a start-up company, business expansion, and ultimately maturation of the enterprise.

During the entire journey from ideation to pre-incubation, incubation, and post-incubation, the program will offer services to youth-led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), including training and orientation, business planning, legal services, or connecting them with potential funders and mentors. 

"This program is yet another demonstration of how the EU supports Rwandan youth to acquire skills and create jobs," said Myriam Ferran, the Deputy Director General at the European Commission, and Director General, International Partnerships (DG INTPA).

"Innovative start-ups create new job opportunities and spur innovation within Rwanda's entrepreneurship ecosystem. The EU-UNDP project demonstrates how the EU is spearheading initiatives to boost the growth of youth-led SMEs, with a strong emphasis on the inclusion of young women and persons with disabilities. Our cooperation will focus on addressing the gaps and strengthening the synergies in the full cycle of SMEs development to provide comprehensive and effective support to young entrepreneurs launching their own companies."

Many young people's businesses fail to take off because of post-incubation gaps, such as a lack of technical, management, and financial support for innovative start-ups. Through this program, UNDP and the European Union are closing identified gaps, especially in the post-COVID19 period.

Ahunna Eziakonwa, the UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa, said, "If harnessed for its full potential, Africa's youth demography will be the cohort that broke the commodity curse; the cycles of poverty, climate change, socio-economic crisis; and inequality. Africa's youth are already leading the fourth industrial revolution".

The partnership launched today will build and strengthen synergies with the YouthConnekt agenda and leverage complementarities with the national youth SMEs and start-up ecosystem, including the incubation hubs and the national business development initiatives. Through this cooperation, UNDP and EU will support Rwanda to :

  • Establish a support framework to accompany young entrepreneurs through the complete journey from the business idea to starting up and maturing an enterprise. 
  • Provide customized coaching, mentorship, and incubation services. 
  • Establish a unique investment model that accommodates the top entrepreneurs from various fields and distinct existing programs implemented by other partners. 
  • Harness the gender dimensions by tailoring training, mentorship, and business development approaches to the differing needs of young women and men.
  • Promote Youth creativity to achieve the SDGs and Leave No One Behind by focusing on vulnerable youth populations (young women, youth from rural areas, refugees, etc.) and the youth from the creative industry (in partnership with Imbuto Foundation) and youth from TVET schools. 

The present action will also cooperate with the Tony Elumelu program and Norssken to deliver world-class mentorship. Qualified youth businesses will receive a 1-year fellowship at the Norrsken Foundation. 


The Minister of Youth and Culture described the occasion as an important opportunity to scale up the impact of youth-led enterprises.

"As we embrace the 10th Anniversary of the YouthConnekt initiative, we look back with much confidence on the socio-economic impact brought to our young people, together with our strategic partners such as UNDP. We are delighted to welcome the EU to the YouthConnekt family and looking forward to more impact, positioning youth-led enterprises as important contributors to the private sector development."

UNDP has been working with the Ministry of Youth and Culture to address the challenges youth face in employment and entrepreneurship.