A Rwandan student is among 13 budding entrepreneurs selected for the 2012 Anzisha Prize, a premier award for African leaders aged 15-20 years, who have developed and implemented innovative solutions to challenges facing their communities.
The Anzisha Prize, an initiative of the African Leadership Academy in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, is a celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa.
Nadege Iradukunda, 18, a senior five student at College St. Emmanuel Secondary School, in Nyanza District, was selected for her project that transforms human waste to electricity.
After observing that the country’s prisons used biogas instead of wood fuel for cooking, in 2010, Nadege joined forces with others in the United Youth for Rwandan Development (UYRD) to get more schools to adopt biogas energy.
Her project dubbed ‘UYRD Biogas Digesters’ is a creative solution that uses a proven technology to save the energy schools use to prepare food for students and thereby cut on fees charged.
Iradukunda alongside UYRD developed the Biogas Digester Plants (BDP) project that buys, assembles, and deploys biodigesters in secondary schools.
Her idea now spearheads the deployment of biogas solutions in schools serving over 15,000 students.
In an e-mail to The New Times, Iradukunda said she is “a key member” of UYRD; a youth led non-profit NGO and voluntary organisation that aims to provide sustainable health and livelihood services to underprivileged, underserved and marginalised young people through education and advocacy.
She said that she acquired knowledge about project designing through the organisation. She is now a member of UYRD’s fundraising team of 10 members, led by Gilbert Uwizeyimana, a fifth year medical student at the National University of Rwanda.
She thought of the idea in May 2010 after she realised the immediate challenges facing her community.
“I was inspired by the fact that school fees increased every year and caused difficulties to some of my poor colleagues. I thought that it may be because expenditure for school materials also increased and one of them was wood for cooking.”
Iradukunda was also bothered that in addition to costly energy for cooking and domestic lighting, there was increased domestic workload, increased respiratory diseases among kitchen workers exposed to firewood smoke and increased deforestation and soil erosion.
“The solution I found was to replace trees with domestic biogas for cooking as many prisons in Rwanda do. But the challenge I met was to seek for funds for this project because its budget is very high and it is why among our activities, there is raising awareness so that schools may thereafter install on their own.”
“I want the Rwandan youth to know that they can make a difference and contribute to the country’s development. They don’t have to wait to complete university studies in order to start working; they have to start working when they are young.”
Iradukunda cites a previous Anzisha Prize winner who now owns a paper bag manufacturing company in Uganda.
“Rwandan youth have to remember that above 70 per cent of Rwandans are youth. Rwanda will be developed by its youth.”
In 2010, African Leadership Academy and The MasterCard Foundation announced the Anzisha Prize, and together embarked on a journey to identify entrepreneurial youth in Africa to transform their communities and the continent.
In 2011, eight inspiring Anzisha Fellows were selected from a pool of 180 young entrepreneurs in 23 African countries.
“These trailblazers, selected from over 270 entrepreneurs in 23 countries, have launched enterprises ranging from agriculture and consumer products to energy and technology initiatives. Collectively, the 2012 Anzisha Fellows have impacted thousands of lives across Africa,” reads part of a statement by the organisers.
“We are still at the beginning of an exciting journey. All around us, young people are eager and poised to make a difference in their communities. The Anzisha Prize celebrates their initiative and innovation. It underscores their ability to shape the future of Africa, and identifies exceptional young entrepreneurs who are leading by example.”
Source: The New Times