10 Ways Rwanda Is Leading Africa’s Tech Revolution

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Rwanda President Paul Kagame has guided his country with a tech focus to produce policies that have enabled private and public enterprise to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

During a visit to Rwanda in 2016, Tony Blair, the former U.K. Prime Minister was impressed with the revolutionary way in which the country embraces technology to boost its economy.

“What they are doing here is not just incubating technology firms but seeing how the latest developments in technology can help revolutionise the rest of the economy,” Blair told the BBC.

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Landlocked Rwanda, unlike other African countries that are blessed with natural resources, has chosen to focus on tech to build its economy.

It has been a leader in Africa’s tech scene for some time, providing the motivation and positive results for other countries to follow in its revolutionary footsteps.

With a goal of one laptop for every Rwandan child and developing partnerships with private-sector tech giants for the benefit of its people, Rwanda is a reference point for other African countries looking to put more emphasis on tech.

Here are 10 ways Rwanda is leading Africa’s tech revolution.

Focusing on tech in education

Rwanda has a strong focus on empowering students through tech. The country introduced a One Laptop Per Child school program in 2009 as part of the standard education system within Rwanda’s primary schools. The government and education ministry in particular have encouraged students and the public in general to embrace e-learning opportunities to evolve better in the digital era, according to New Times.

A willing host for tech gatherings

Rwanda has been keen to host many continental and international tech gatherings, showing their ability to welcome delegates from all over the world. An example is the Africa Tech Summit, which was successfully hosted in the country in 2018, bringing together industry leaders from across the globe including the likes of Facebook, Andela, and Taxify. In March 2019 Kigali also hosted the Africa CEO Forum, high-level international meeting of African CEOs, according to ITNewsAfrica.

Establishing Africa’s first electronic world trade platform

At the end of 2018, Rwanda became the first African country to establish an electronic world trade platform, thanks to collaboration between the country and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma formally launched the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) Africa in Rwanda, allowing small businesses in the country to take part in cross-border electronic trade. , according to ITWebAfrica.

Ambition to produce successful tech companies

The Rwandan government continues to push a 2015 initiative to see 100 technology companies valued at more than $50 million produced by 2030. To assist in making this a reality, a $100 million venture fund was put in place to support the startups at an early stage so that they can grow and become sustainable, according to Newtimes.

Government promotes ICT

In 2016 the Global Information Technology Report by the World Economic Forum ranked Rwanda first in government success in ICT promotion, according to ITWebAfrica. This is because of the focus that government has on tech as a means to build the economy and create jobs. The leadership within Rwanda is also a crucial part of this focus, as Rwandan President Paul Kagame embraces technology, and was once called “The digital president”, according to NewVision.

tech revolution
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and French President Emmanuel Macron pose with business men of Rwanda at the VivaTech gadget show in Paris, Thursday, May 24, 2018. AP Photo – Michel Euler

Public transport Wi-Fi

Rwanda once again proved its reputation as a tech pioneer in Africa when it launched public transport Wi-Fi in early 2019. The East African nation launched 4G wireless internet access points on buses in the Rwandan capital, while third generation (3G) Wi-Fi will be enabled for those traveling within intercity and rural routes, according to ITWebAfrica.

Partnering with international tech firms

Rwanda also has a history of partnering with global telecoms and tech companies to further the tech needs of its people. In 2017 the Rwandan government announced a partnership with Finnish mobile giants Nokia and local company SRG in the deployment of smart city technology solutions throughout the country, according to ITNewsAfrica. Also in 2017, Rwanda established a partnership with tech giant Microsoft to roll out online education initiatives across the country, according to CNBC Africa.

Investing in a major fiber network

Rwanda has invested over $100 million in a 2,800-mile fiber network, which was built by 2015, with the aim of becoming an ICT services economy and providing broadband internet to people and businesses across the country, according to Techcrunch.

Inviting environment for entrepreneurs

Rwanda’s success in putting tech first has also attracted international entrepreneurs. These businessmen and women see Rwanda as an ideal place to start a business because of elements such as the entrepreneur visa, the ability to register a company in 15 minutes, free spaces to work from, the exceptional rule of law and a government that is willing to engage with even the smallest startup, according to Moguldom. It is for this reason that Rwanda has earned a reputation as a “test kitchen” for startups.

Attracting continent startups and investment

Thanks to the tech-friendly environment that Rwanda has created, continental businesses are taking the East African market seriously, and investing in it. Earlier in 2019, Nigerian tech center and co-working space, Co-Creation Hub launched a design lab in Kigali, Rwanda, promising to invest around $11 million in the projects, according to ITNewsAfrica. The Co-Creation Hub in Rwanda is the first to launch outside of Nigeria. In July 2018, globally-recognized African tech startup Andela, which is headquartered in New York City, launched a tech hub in Kigali, choosing the country as the company’s fourth African market, according toITWebAfrica.