Imagine-Nation, a co-working space dedicated to youth entrepreneurship – The New Times

Imagine-Nation is the brainchild of Imagine We Rwanda, a local organization that promotes the reading and creative writing culture in the country.

It is the latest co-working space to open its doors to Kigalians, and is designed to boost the prospects of youth embarking on their entrepreneurship journey.

Based in Kacyiru, a City of Kigali suburb, Imagine We Rwanda is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2015 with the aim of improving the reading and writing culture especially among the youth.

It provides free reading space at its well-stocked community library, and facilitates book publishing for budding local authors.

According to Shakila Kamatali, the Public Relations Officer at Imagine We Rwanda, the move is aimed at inspiring young people to get out of their comfort zones and take action to turn their dreams a reality.

“From a fledgling company that is promoting the reading and creative writing culture in Rwanda, Imagine We is also acknowledging that young entrepreneurs face immense struggles when building their start-ups,” explains Dominique U. Alonga, the founder of Imagine We Rwanda.

She adds that the free space is dedicated to start-ups that have difficulty affording office space. 

“Start-ups in Rwanda have 4 of 5 chances of failing, yet there are not enough alternatives to financially support these endeavors. These obstacles were not abated when the City of Kigali gave a directive to all businesses to start operating from commercial premises only.

L-R: Gahaya Celestin, Creative Executive Officer of ELCON Media and Lionel Mpfizi, CEO of Awesome Lab. / Courtesy photos 

Despite these challenges, start-ups are still growing with more young people venturing into the entrepreneurial field.”

Alonga adds that the space will further help build synergy among budding entrepreneurs by offering access to a network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

So far, five start-ups are already utilizing the space, including the newest venture, Girl District, a social enterprise that empowers young boys and girls to make informed choices for their sexual reproductive health through comic books and a mentorship program.

The space, she further reveals, will further be used to host free workshops and events to showcase the various talents of young Rwandans.

“We chose the co-working space because we wanted to collaborate with different companies, gain different experiences from each other, exchange services and get to have a variety of customers, explained Natacha Umutoni, co-owner of Acacia Book Café.

The company sells books, gifts, and also hosts small events in its small and cozy coffee shop.

Also at the space is ELCON Media, a local video and sound production house. The company offers a range of multimedia services including TV commercials, radio ads, documentaries and 3D animation, among others.

“The reason I chose this co-working space was because as a creative person, I love to see the world a little differently. Imagine-Nation is artistically unique, a place where creativity has no limits. We all help one another to grow. It’s an environment full of inspiration,” explained Gahaya Celestin, the company’s Creative Executive Officer.

“We love Imagine-Nation because of the diversity; every company here does something different but at the end of the day we complement each other.”

Another beneficiary is the Awesome Lab, a software development start-up that creates simple, user-friendly web platforms and mobile apps to meet different business needs.

“We also help businesses build solutions for growth and scalability,” explains Lionel Mpfizi, the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We love Imagine-Nation because of the diversity, every company here does something different but at the end of the day we complement each other.”

According to Kamatali, Imagine We is also working with five budding local authors whose books are set to hit local bookshelves soon.

“We believe in changing the narrative of Africa; especially the poverty-ridden stereotypes. We believe these books will share a more positive story about Rwanda and Africa.”

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Alonga and her family retraced their roots in Rwanda in 1997.

She went to the US later where completed her high school. Returning to Rwanda, she found employment in a local NGO, but it did not take long before she discovered that it was not where her heart belonged.

A self-confessed book worm, she started to think of ways in which she could help fellow young people reach their potential by becoming more informed.

Towards the end of 2014, a competition dubbed Tigo Digital Change Makers was organized by local telecom company, Tigo Rwanda.

She pitched the idea for Imagine We Rwanda as a project through which she could reach out to young people passionate about reading and writing.

In November of the same year, she was announced as one of the beneficiaries after her project pitch was considered. At the time, she was a Communications Officer at Never Again Rwanda, a job that she quickly quit to embark on her new journey at Imagine We Rwanda. The organization became operational in 2015.

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