The African Drone Business Challenge: Startups Making an Impact Across the Continent

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Isabelle Umugwaneza, Deputy Managing Director, Rwanda Airports Company. Image courtesy African Drone Forum.

The oldest discovered calculator in the world is the 20,000 year old Ishanga bone, found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Africa is sometimes referred to as the cradle of mathematics.  So while the theme of the African Drone Forum has been innovation, “It’s important to remember that Africa has been innovating all along,” says  Isabelle Umugwaneze, Deputy Managing Director of Rwanda Airports Company.  “We have all of the solutions that we need right here.”

However, says Umugwaneze, “Ideas and innovation are not enough.”  For example, as part of host country Rwanda’s goal of becoming a knowledge based economy by 2050, all of Rwanda’s major areas and provinces have fiber optic laid underneath them – and the government is investing heavily and strategically to ensure that new technology businesses have the facilities and environment that they need to be successful.  A robust African drone industry will require a robust ecosystem of African businesses that can meet the needs of new industries, aircraft and applications.  To help develop the ecosystem and support new startups in the space, the African Drone Forum and partners including the U.K. Department of International Development are sponsoring the African Drone Business Challenge.

Image courtesy African Drone Forum

This pan-African business plan competition is designed for African entrepreneurs with new and innovative business models in the drone industry. The U.K. Department for International Development will offer prize funding of up to £40,000 – a significant sum for a new business. All of the finalists receive pitch training, mentorship, exhibit space and exposure to potential partners and customers.  The Challenge received 148 submissions from 31 different African countries.  The 10 finalists include companies focused on drone mapping, training, precision agriculture, hardware manufacturing and more.  (Learn more about all of the finalists here.)

Finalists will present their business pitch to a panel of experts and the participants at an evening reception, and both an official first place and an “audience choice” will be announced.




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