Norrsken to open in Kigali

Three years after launching in Stockholm, Norrsken is taking the first steps in its global journey. East Africa and Kigali, Rwanda, will be the second market after Stockholm.

– We believe entrepreneurs working to solve the greatest challenges should be celebrated as heroes, the rock stars of our time. They are creating jobs and solving problems at the same time. We see great opportunities in Rwanda and Kigali as the natural gateway to the fast-growing markets and entrepreneurs of East and Central Africa, said Norrsken CEO Erik Engellau-Nilsson.

Norrsken has signed a contract to purchase the former École Belge campus in downtown Kigali, Rwanda – a 12 430 square metres site located in the business district of downtown Kigali. The students moved to a new location last year.

– We have to be very humble to the fact that we’ve not done this before and are looking forward to learn from the local ecosystem. We are not only investing in what Kigali is today, but in the future of the entire region, says CEO Erik Engellau-Nilsson.

Norrsken’s Head of African Expansion, Fredrika Wessman, sees great potential in integrating with and strengthening the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.

– We are in Kigali to listen, learn and build together with local entrepreneurs. Our meetings with entrepreneurs in the region have shown a gap in the ecosystem where startups and businesses working to solve problems in their communities often struggle to find the business support and the investments they need to scale, says Fredrika Wessman.

Norrsken will offer training to entrepreneurs, capital, advice on how to set up a business and partnerships with other incubators and accelerators.

– Our aim is to accelerate the rapid development of entrepreneurship in East Africa by increasing access to international capital, talent and network, says Fredrika Wessman.

The plans for rebuilding École Belge are being created together with MASS Design Group, and a definite date for opening has not yet been communicated. The team for Norrsken Kigali will be recruited locally.

– Kigali has very strong infrastructure, great connectivity,  high economic growth and is ranked by the World Bank as easier to set up a business in than the United States and France. We believe this is a strong foundation for empowering young entrepreneurs throughout the region, says Fredrika Wessman.

Norrsken was founded by fintech unicorn Klarna's founders Niklas Adalberth in 2016 and has one goal: to help entrepreneurs solve the world’s greatest challenges. Adalberth has, to this date, donated €70 million to the foundation. The venture capital arm of the foundation is backed by unicorn founders from gaming giants King and Mojang, international watchmaker Daniel Wellington and Klarna. Norrsken works with over 70 partners in Sweden and globally, such as McKinsey, Nordic Capital and PWC.

Norrsken’s portfolio today consists of Swedish and British companies, several of them with operations in Africa already - such as WeFarm and Ignitia. Norrsken aims to scale this with the opening of Norrsken Kigali and invest directly in African companies.

CEO Erik Engellau-Nilsson makes it clear that Norrsken is in East Africa to stay.

– It took Stockholm 20 years to become Europe’s Unicorn Factory. We believe in East Africa and in Kigali. And we believe in patience, says Erik Engellau-Nilsson.