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Why West African investment firm chose Rwanda to domicile its investment vehicle

Since the debut of the Kigali International Finance Centre, in 2020 seeking to position Rwanda as a business and financial hub in Africa, it has continued to attract a number of investors and members who make up the inaugural tenants.

Among the initial entrants is Dakar Network Angels (DNA), an Angel Network based in Dakar (Senegal) investing in startups in Francophone Africa. DNA targets tech-enabled businesses building innovative solutions for Africa and serving a significant market.

By setting up an investment holding company in Rwanda, DNA is sending a signal that KIFC is a financial centre that is interested in and caters for Francophone markets.

Officials of the firm say that this is among other things due to ease of operations, an investor-friendly onboarding process DNA chose to structure its operations through KIFC. DNA currently has a network of about 45 members based in the US, Europe and across Africa.

Marième Diop the founder of DNA said that they decided on Rwanda as the ideal jurisdiction on consideration of multiple factors including ease of set up, tax regime, flexibility among others.

“In terms of Jurisdictions we looked at, we considered multiple in Africa and beyond. We wanted a flexible vehicle to have a quick investment process. We also noted that Rwanda had a competitive tax regime, the application process was very fast compared to other IFCs, the establishment costs were relatively low as well as maintenance costs,” she said.

Diop noted that so far, they are happy with their choice of Kigali and plan to use the fund as an investment vehicle for investment in start-ups in the Francophone market.

“We went for a private limited company with several classes of shares and each class of share tracks a particular investment. Everything was facilitated from get go. It was easy to set up. It is easy to run,” he said.

The firm is also looking out for potential Rwandan firms eligible for investment.

“We are also looking at potential Rwandan firms to invest in. We have been advocating for Rwanda among our peers (Angel Networks) as one of the best places to set up investment vehicles. We hope more people will look at Rwanda as a leading investment hub,” she said.

The attributes cited as ideal for investors setting up presence at KIFC are partly due to efforts led by Rwanda Finance Limited to conduct major reforms in the laws to improve the attractiveness of the local system to local and international capital.

Among the reformed legislations is the law relating to Investment Promotion and Facilitation; the law governing partnerships, law governing collective investment schemes, law governing companies, and the law on prevention and punishment of money laundering, financing of terrorism and financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Gwladys Watrin, Business Development Manager at Rwanda Finance Limited said that KIFC is suited to the needs of a wide range of investors to their respective type of investment opportunities everywhere in Africa.

“Early-stage investors like Dakar Network Angels (DNA) are important to provide capital for startups. At Kigali International Financial Centre, we understand the need to connect each type of investor to their respective type of investment opportunities everywhere in Africa. DNA is currently investing in West Africa through Kigali, we encourage more discussions between DNA and local startups ready for investment in Rwanda,” Gwladys Watrin, Business Development Manager.

Umulinga Karangwa, a Board Member of Rwanda Finance Limited and the Founder of Africa Nziza Investment Advisory said that Rwandan startups will also benefit from the firm serving towards ambitions of job creation and economic growth.

“As a proud Rwandan and member of the Dakar Network Angels, I am overjoyed that DNA is a precursor in establishing an investment vehicle in KIFC. DNA and Marième Diop are leaders in early stage investing on the continent and they have chosen Kigali for their investments. I am thrilled at the potential of Kigali to channel the record-breaking amounts of capital being invested in African startups,” he said.

Kigali International Financial Centre continues to attract a number of investors and members ranging from social impact investors, Angel Investors, investment companies, financial services providers, Corporate Services Providers among others.

It was this year ranked on the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), a renowned ranking on the competitiveness of financial centres across the world. The index rates 116 financial centres across the world combining assessments from financial professionals with quantitative data which form instrumental factors. KIFC was also mentioned among the top centres likely to become more significant going forward as well as among centres enjoying reputational advantage.

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