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Rwandan climate tech startup wins innovator of the year prize

Sara Ess
Sara Ess, Africa One News | Tech & Science
Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 3:02:00 PM UTC

Loopa leverages Internet of Things (IoT) technology to optimize the conversion of food waste and other agricultural byproducts into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer, to assist farmers in transitioning from inorganic to organic fertilizer affordably while achieving higher yields.

Commonly known as Hanga Pitchfest, the annual event is the largest in-person technology competition designed to ignite and inspire innovation in Rwanda’s startup ecosystem.

President Paul Kagame presented the overall prize to Cynthia Umutoniwabo, the Chief Executive and Founder at Loopa, after she dazzled the crowd with her final pitch.

Umutoniwabo was one of the five finalists who pitched solutions to a group of seasoned judges.

Ideas ranged from the sexual reproductive health data analytics for SME’s, training health professionals using virtual reality, turning food waste into agricultural fertilizers and talent matching.

She described Loopa as a pioneering climate tech startup founded by passionate climate enthusiasts dedicated to, among others, creating a cleaner and smarter Africa.

Like the other four contenders, Umutoniwabo had only five minutes to pitch her prototype.

“We are laser-focused on revolutionizing waste management with circular economy solutions,” she told The New Times.

“Our flagship solution targets organic waste, transforming it into affordable, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer specifically designed for small-scale farmers across Africa. Together, let's drive sustainable change, build a greener future, and empower Africa's communities.”

The finale also saw four startups awarded in the Unleash programme.

The global innovation platform convened 1,000 youth from around the world in Kigali for a week-long innovation lab to address global challenges and contribute to sustainable solutions for the UN SDGs.

It was the first time the innovation was happening in Africa.

Speaking to the contenders, shortly before the awarding ceremony, President Kagame urged the innovators in the room to “passionately” develop their prototypes. Kagame shared his childhood memories, and his love for aircraft.

“Growing up, I was fascinated by planes. Even before I had an opportunity to step on a plane, I used to see them and be fascinated by that.”

In fact, Kagame added, from that, "I thought if I had had the opportunity, I would become a pilot or an engineer."

But, he said, it didn’t happen.

“I ended up in completely different places but I am trying to do my best in that as well. I think, in a way, the train left the station. But I know there are many young entrepreneurs and a lot of talent in this room. I am just encouraging you. This is the time for you to do what some of us were not able to do and change things. This is your time.”

Kagame also took time to dismiss the talk about the idea that Africa is identified with more risk for investment.

“I don’t know which part of the world that does not have the kinds of risk that people are talking about.”

For Prof. Senait Fisseha, Director of Global Programs at the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation, initiatives like Hanga and Unleash are shifting the paradigm.

She said that the purpose of Hanga Pitchfest and UNLEASH is making vision into reality.

“If anyone ever doubted that young people would change the world, this is all the evidence they need.”

Achim Steiner, Administrator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expressed his admiration for the contestants, and also commended Rwanda for supporting the ecosystem.

“I admire and commend all the young people who have pitched at Hangapitchfest23 today. It's their solutions or ideas that shape our work of development every day. May the winners inspire us all. It’s a privilege for UNDP to join Rwanda in this journey empowering the young people in Rwanda.”

Winners in order

Cynthia Umutoniwabo, the Chief Executive at Loopa, leverages Internet of Things (IoT) technology to optimise the conversion of food waste and other agricultural byproducts into nutrient-rich organic fertiliser, to assist farmers in transitioning from inorganic to organic fertiliser affordably while achieving higher yields.

Arsene Muhire the Chief Executive at Hova AI, a cutting-edge platform that offers real-time sales, inventory, and customer behaviour data. It also provides predictive analytics and recommendations, aiding African small and medium enterprises in making informed decisions and optimising their operations.

Gaelle Abi Gisubizo, the CEO and Founder at Dope Initiatives which focuses on sexual and reproductive health education using a game-based online quiz.

Vivens Uwizeyimana, the Chief Executive at Umurava, a talent marketplace platform that enables companies to hire and outsource Africa's quality workforce specialised in the in-demand skills in digital media and marketing, research and data, and tech.

Wendy Ruzindana, the Chief Executive at MediXR, a startup dedicated to enhancing healthcare education by providing an immersive and interactive platform for medical training through innovative VR technology.

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