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Clarissee Irbagiza: Rwanda’s tech-smart pioneer

Updated: Jan 16, 2022


In 2015, Forbes magazine nominated Clarissee Irbagiza as one of Africa's under 30 promising entrepreneurs. Clarisse stands out as one of the few African women who have been able to break the glass ceiling and successfully get into a male-dominated field. Clarissee Irbagiza is a mobile Technology entrepreneur in Rwanda. She is co-founder of HeHe Limited and the company's CEO. Hehe was founded in 2010. It is a technology company that uses mobile phones as a platform for its services.

Born in 1988, her father is a teacher, while her mother is an entrepreneur. Her parents always encouraged her and her siblings to be ambitious and to go after careers that would shape their future. Not only did Clarisse go after her dream, she excelled in it. In 2012, Irbagiza was nominated as one of the 20 movers and shakers in Africa. In the same year, she won a $ 50,000 prize in a Rwandan entrepreneurial TV contest. LSDP (Lo Spazio della Politica), an Italian think tank, placed her among the top 100 thinkers in the world.

Clarisse attended the University of Rwanda, where she got a degree in Computer Engineering and Information Technology. It is here that she realized that her country had potential for technology, especially when it came to mobile applications.

HeHe Labs has been able to develop mobile apps that improve competency in different sectors such as education, transport, health and agriculture. In 2014, The Labs developed an app that is similar to Uber. The app called Safeboda promotes safe driving in Uganda. The app helps to connect customers with drivers who have been trained to drive safely, offer excellent customer service and first aid. Hehe also developed Nuntu app, a digital media store with African content.

Clarisse also partnered with other ICT entrepreneurs and started a tech start-up network called The iHills, which helps people to get business financing in the tech world. People who use it also get advice on how to run their businesses. Clarisse and her teams also developed a software that enables girls to send in questions about life challenges that they may be facing and get answers in real-time sent to their mobile phones. They have empowered over 13, 000 girls, through the platform, known as the GirlHub. This platform was built in collaboration with Nike. They got over 10, 000 text messages the first time after they launched the platform.

Hehe collects over $ 200,000 in revenue every year. Irbagiza has grand plans to take the company to a higher level in the future. The company plans to continue mentoring and financing tech startups in Rwanda. Irbagiza also intends to be a pioneer when it comes to finding technological solutions to Africa's problems.

Irbagiza lived in Uganda most of her life and only went back to Rwanda when her family moved back there, though she was not too pleased about it. Even though she is quite a busy person, Irbagiza takes time off regularly to play the guitar and also come up with some songs.

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