BY BOLA JOHNSON
Clarisse Iribagiza is another torch bearer for the new crop of trail blazing female tech entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Africa in general. She has also made it her agenda to inspire the next generation of techies. She has broken several barriers taking her company HeHe Limited to the very top of Rwanda’s information technology industry.
The mobile technology company has been successful enough to set Clarisse apart as a major voice in Rwanda’s fast emerging tech scene.
In 2015, African entrepreneurs making noticeable strides in the tech industry were invited to speak at the sixth annual Pakasa Forum organised by Vision Group. The event was organised as Vision Group’s effort to inspire Ugandan entrepreneurs by exposing them to stories of individuals with interesting success stories. The speakers’ stories would also provide actionable insights into mindset change, personal responsibility to success, and hard work, as it concerns entrepreneurial success. Attendees from within Uganda and East Africa were especially impressed and motivated by Clarisse Iribagiza’s story as she laid out her entrepreneurial journey.
Her early influences were her parents. Born to a teacher and an entrepreneur, she and her siblings were taught to pursue impactful and meaningful careers which prepared them largely for the future .
She started to develop the idea for her business during her days studying computer engineering at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology. The idea came after she participated in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) incubation programme. She was able put puzzle pieces together, relating what she was learning in school with its application in the real world.
Clarisse Iribagiza eventually setup HeHe Labs in 2010. Since its inception she has been able to work creatively with young, enthusiastic individuals to build mobile information systems and research significant mobile technologies for Africa. HeHe Limited now provides top notch solutions for businesses and organisations alike. Using information systems, the company has been to help these businesses reach their audiences faster and more conveniently.
Iribagiza says the company’s greatest success is not just building systems that have enhanced operational efficiency for a number of organisations across Africa but the creation of a research arm that trains and inspires hundreds of Rwandan youths to be major players in Africa’s technology revolution.
The company has also gone on to create programmes for about 80 Small and medium enterprises to enable them interact with their customers in different locations at the same time, all through HeHe.com. Additionally, Clarisse’ team built a platform where girls could send in questions about challenges they were facing and get almost instant responses.
Together with other budding young ICT entrepreneurs, she launched an initiative called iHills. The program provides mentoring as well finance to startups in and around Rwanda.
Italian think tank, LSDP (Lo Spazio Della Politica), named her among its top 100 global thinkers in 2014. She was nominated among Africa’s most promising young entrepreneurs under 30 by Forbes magazine in 2015. In 2013 she was also awarded the Celebrating Young Rwandan Achievers (CYRWA) award by the Imbuto Foundation. The initiative was founded by Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeanette Kagame, an initiative started to provide welfare and healthcare to vulnerable people in Rwanda.
Clarisse has expressed her desire to innovate and develop technologies that would impact Africa positively in the future. The focus of the research arm at HeHe for the future is to collaborate with young innovators across Africa to come up with inventions that fit perfectly into the African structure and can improve various parts of the spectrum.