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Grand Challenges Rwanda launches, joins global innovation network

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Grand Challenges Rwanda is joining a growing global network falling under the Grand Challenges family. Grand Challenges is a programme seeking to promote global-led scientific innovations to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by awarding seed and scale-up grants to the continent’s most impressive solutions.

The Rwanda National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) in partnership with African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa Development (AUDA-NEPAD), the Science for Africa Foundation (SFA Foundation) and global partners is launching Grand Challenges Rwanda (GC Rwanda), an initiative to fund Rwandan scientists to collaborate with their peers in Africa to conduct research that addresses and solves the most critical development challenges in Rwanda and Africa.

Additionally, GC Rwanda is being launched on 18 – 19 May 2023 to fund high-quality Research and Development (R&D) addressing specific challenges affecting Rwanda.

Grand Challenges Rwanda is joining a growing global network falling under the Grand Challenges family. Grand Challenges is a programme seeking to promote global-led scientific innovations to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by awarding seed and scale-up grants to the continent’s most impressive solutions. Additionally, GC Rwanda follows other established GC programmes in Africa initiatives such GC South Africa, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Senegal.

GC Rwanda is strategic in Rwanda’s ambition to become a high-income economy through funding R&D and building innovation excellence through the National Research and Innovation Fund (NRIF) instrument at NCST. Rwanda’s goal is to enhance data-driven innovations to transform industrial development and improve the well-being of Rwandan citizens.

GC Rwanda advances research and innovation to achieve Rwanda’s Vision 2050 which aspires to transform industry and to become a knowledge-based economy.  Grand Challenges Rwanda will prioritise funding opportunities for high-level quality ideas by researchers and innovators with exciting ground-breaking innovative research projects leading to products and services as unique solutions.

According to Rwanda National Research and Experimental R&D survey for 2018/2019 analysis report conducted by National Council for Science and Technology in 2021, Rwanda’s R&D intensity, which is measured as the Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) as a percentage of GDP has increased from 0.66% in 2015/2016 to 0.69% in 2018/2019. Grand Challenges Rwanda aims to drive sustainability and provide strategies to support improved R&D and innovation funding to achieve the African Union target of allocating 1% of GDP to R&D.

“GC Rwanda is a demonstration of commitment by African governments to shift their priorities to science and harnessing it to meet local development needs. This move unlocks funding for local innovators to provide local solutions to local challenges,” says Dr Moses Alobo, Programme Manager Grand Challenges Africa at the SFA Foundation.

To operationalise the GC Rwanda initiative, a Request for Proposals (RFP) will be launched to solicit applications from scientists in Rwanda to collaborate with their colleagues in Africa and globally to implement research that fosters innovation. These initial RFPs will specifically focus on climate-resilient agriculture, food safety and security to accumulate value in the form of innovative products, services, processes, and solutions using modern and high technology. This will be through collaborations that drive the creation of knowledge-based economies and the continent’s competitiveness.

A two-day event is marking the launch of GC Rwanda and is also providing a platform to discuss strategies to support the R&D and innovation pipeline, assess and support innovations to mature and transition to scale, share strategies to strengthen sustainable national and international partnerships and cooperation in scientific research and shape sustainable solutions for funding R&D-based innovations.

"True progress and sustainable development in Africa can only be achieved when we invest in and cultivate our own talent and expertise in research and innovation. We cannot rely solely on external support to drive our scientific advancement. It's time to prioritise and nurture homegrown solutions that will empower our communities and drive economic growth from within," said Prof Aggrey Ambali, Director, NEPAD-African Union Development Agency (AUDA)”

Notes to editors

About National Council for Science and Technology (NCST)

The National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) is a public institution established by the law 40/2017 of 16/08/2017 and giving it the mandate among others, to identify and promote new sectors of activities that require special means and measures for innovation through technology and research essential for the country; and to cooperate and collaborate with other advanced regional and international institutions of excellence with similar mission.

About the SFA Foundation

The SFA Foundation is a pan-African, non-profit and public charity organisation that supports, strengthens, and promotes science and innovation in Africa. The SFA Foundation serves the African research ecosystem by funding excellent ideas in research and innovation; enabling interdisciplinary collaborations and building and reinforcing environments that are conducive for scientists to thrive and produce quality research that generates new, locally relevant knowledge. SFA Foundation is proud to partner with the Rwandan Ministry of Education, NCST and AUDA-NEPAD to support the launch of GC Rwanda as part of the African governments' national launches of Grand Challenges.

As one of the flagship programme of SFA Foundation, Grand Challenges Africa supports big, bold impactful innovative ideas that have a potential for impact, scale, and sustainability. GC Africa awards bold projects through seed and scale-up grants that can provide the continent’s most impressive solutions. Each GC initiative is an experiment in the use of locally defined priorities by supporting translational pathways that can move early-discovery innovations to attain and make social and economic impact for all.

About the African Union

The African Union spearheads Africa’s development and integration in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens. The AU Vision is to accelerate progress towards an integrated, prosperous, and inclusive Africa, at peace with itself, playing a dynamic role in the continental and global arena, effectively driven by an accountable, efficient and responsive Commission.

About the AUDA-NEPAD

The African Union Development Agency - NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) was established in 2018 as part of the global reforms geared at improving the African Union’s impact and operational efficiency.


National Council for Science and Technology (NCST)

 [email protected] I +250 781030798


SFA Foundation

Davies Mbela, [email protected] I +254726604720