Nordic Capital: Supporting Entrepreneurship in Africa | Nordic Capital

Supporting Entrepreneurship in Africa “Blown away by the entrepreneurs, their business acumen and commitment”

DECEMBER 04 2023

Nordic Capital attended the landmark opening of Norrsken East Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, one of the largest hubs for entrepreneurship in East Africa. Here, the Nordic Capital team reflects on meetings with impact businesses and how Norrsken’s Mentorship Programme inspires and provides guidance for local entrepreneurs.

Since 2018, Nordic Capital has partnered with the Norrsken Foundation, to support social entrepreneurs scale businesses and benefit their communities. The partnership forms part of Nordic Capital's Community Engagement and its commitment to developing sustainable companies that contribute to society.

In November 2023, the Nordic Capital team was invited to participate in the official opening of Norrsken East Africa, a landmark event for the foundation to support 1,000+ impact entrepreneurs in Africa. The hub in Kigali, East Africa’s largest for entrepreneurship, brought local start-ups together with incubators, VCs, accelerators, and corporates to forge meaningful connections and spur innovation.

The Nordic Capital team, consisting of Elin Ljung, Linnea Boestad, Sevryn Schaller, Maria Kulju and Niklas Fredriksson, share their experiences from meeting some of Africa's most exciting entrepreneurs at Norrsken Kigali House.

Five days in Rwanda, the land of thousand hills and thousand opportunities

The Nordic Capital team landed in a hot Kigali in central Rwanda. The airport was filled with Norrsken Africa Week banners which signposted big expectations for this gathering of investors, entrepreneurs, and politicians from across Africa.

The attendance of Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, at the opening, underscored the role that Norrsken House is playing in attracting investment to Rwanda as a country and to its start-up and business ecosystem. It cements Rwanda's important position as a 'proof-of-concept' country for emerging African start-ups. Norrsken House Kigali will support many generations of entrepreneurs by providing not only a place to work, but also an extensive network of other entrepreneurs on a similar journey and access to capital.

"Rwanda really want to create an African hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. I'm truly amazed by Norrsken's dedication to supporting impact entrepreneurs and driving societal change that has the power to defeat poverty, support a greener economy and boost social inclusion and prosperity," said Elin Ljung, Managing Director, Head of Communications & Sustainability.

The week was filled with activities, events and inspiring meetings with entrepreneurs. While acknowledging great potential, it was also clear that insight is needed at a local level to help entrepreneurs tap into those opportunities. The entrepreneurs that Nordic Capital met showed an impressive understanding of the challenges in the markets in which they operate, and confidence to be able to overcome them. The main issue faced by many businesses is access to capital, which Norrsken is addressing by working with investors.

"There was a great sense of optimism for the future and confidence in the power of technology to be the great equaliser in addressing societal challenges and driving sustainable change. It was inspiring to be in this environment and to interact with entrepreneurs and investors. It's a great reminder of the value adding role that business can play in society and of private equity's important role in backing the companies that deliver this benefit," said Linnea Boestad, Investment Manager.

A house with energy and entrepreneurial spirit

The Norrsken Kigali House is a fantastic area in the centre of town and consists of repurposed classrooms and a main building. It forms the largest hub for entrepreneurship and innovation on the continent. The House itself displays the spirit of energy and innovation, with high-tech facilities and a strong environmental awareness. Entrepreneurs are invited there to meet investors and policy-makers, and, to date, 1,100+ people have joined this diverse ecosystem.

"The Norrsken House felt like a vibrant and innovative hub with a large group of entrepreneurs, investors and stakeholders congregating for the Africa Week event to discuss supporting local entrepreneurship and positive societal impact. As a building and space, I can imagine it's a great place to work from. They've designed it with green credentials and a lower carbon footprint but it's also built for its users, offering an attractive mix of indoor and outdoor areas to create varying and inviting spaces for different sized groups," said Maria Kulju, Investment Director.

"The house is beautiful, well-equipped and oozing the energy of entrepreneurship and growth that makes for a successful incubator. Conversations focused on how to take advantage of the many opportunities and overcome challenges through technological advancement and the development of talent across the continent," said Sevryn Schaller, Investment Associate.

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Exploring the beautiful wildlife, East African culture and the memorable national history

In addition to the interesting days in Norrsken house, the Nordic Capital team also took the opportunity to explore the land of a thousand hills. The beauty of the Rwandan landscape and wildlife is amazing and the team visited the Volcanoes National Park, home to the world’s last surviving mountain gorilla population and one of the most protected areas in the world. The conservation work at the Park has enabled gorillas to thrive with their numbers now starting to rise.

To gain a better understanding of Rwanda's history, the Nordic Capital team visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the largest record of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The education centre both gives a meaningful tribute to those who perished and provides a powerful educational experience for visitors.

Nordic Capital is a proud partner to Norrsken Foundation, a true enabler of creating prospering communities by backing impact entrepreneurs globally.

"Seeing the impact of Nordic Capital's support to Norrsken and these entrepreneurs has reaffirmed my commitment to considering the global context in which we operate. Developing economies represent the fast-growing opportunities for investment, combined with potentially the greatest opportunity to make a truly positive impact on the lives of those involved," said Sevryn Schaller.

"This week was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the major challenges we face on a global scale and how we can work together to prosper. I’m honoured to be part of the Norrsken ecosystem, backing entrepreneurs all around the world"

Elin Ljung, Managing Director, Communications and Sustainability