Rwanda: An Emerging Cradle of Innovation in Africa.

Rwanda has a prospector’s mentality, the ability to focus on opportunities.

Posted by: Nicky Verd Comments: 0

Twenty-five years ago, Rwanda was in the midst of one of the most horrific genocides in history but with time, the country has recovered and is emerging as the cradle of innovation in Africa, rising at an exponential rate with tech at the heart of it.

Rwanda has a prospector’s mentality, the ability to focus on opportunities, building flexibility by seeking what it is they can do, and by developing meaningful international relationships. At its core, Rwanda is on a constant lookout for better ideas to further cement its place as Africa’s centre for innovation. Rwanda’s potential is great and her mission is unwavering. It is this pioneering mentality that is fueling the country, spurring equal parts of risk and business acumen.

In my new book Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted, I mentioned that “Africa’s hope for transformation lies in innovation, entrepreneurship and a big shift in mindset.”

Many countries across the African continent are investing deep into the tech industry but Rwanda is angling to get ahead of the pack, working hard to disrupt and change the landscape of Africa’s innovation. In my previous article about Rwanda, I wrote how “Rwanda Is Building Africa’s Very Own Silicon Valley.” – a project inspired by America’s Silicon Valley with the aim to build a critical mass of talent, research and innovative ideas that will transform the continent.

And things just keep getting better and better in a country that had little hope for survival. Rwanda stands out for its rapid growth in the tech scene and for how easy the country makes it to do business.

Ease of Doing Business (World Bank Report).

The World Bank listed Rwanda at number 38th in its 2019 “Ease of Doing Business” report. The Ease of Doing Business Report is an index by the World Bank that analyzes regulation that encourages efficiency and supports freedom to do business in different countries around the world. (Link to download the entire report at the end of the article).

Foreign investors shun economies where rules prevent economic activity from flourishing. And so, ease of Doing Business covers 10 crucial areas:

  1. Starting a business
  2. Dealing with construction permits,
  3. Getting electricity,
  4. Registering property,
  5. Getting credit,
  6. Protecting minority investors,
  7. Paying taxes,
  8. Trading across borders,
  9. Enforcing contracts, and
  10. Resolving insolvency

In General, Areas measured in Ease of Doing Business are:

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Mauritius is by far the highest-ranked among African countries at #13, second by Rwanda at #38, these are the only two African countries in the Top 50. The nearest African nations on the index are Morroco at #53, Kenya at #56, Tunisia at #78, and South Africa at #84.

Rwanda being ranked number 38 is still impressive compared to highly developed countries like the Netherlands coming in at #42 and Belgium at #46

Rwanda is flourishing hugely because of the government’s promotion of information and communication technology. For instance, the country offers an entrepreneur visa, free spaces to work from, steady rule of law, and a quick registration process for businesses. This means foreign nationals can obtain an entrepreneur visa if they plan to start a tech business in Rwanda. These are hard to find features in other countries in Africa.

The World Economic Forum also ranked Rwanda as the first in Africa for government success in ICT promotion, while it is also the highest ranked in Africa for internet affordability. The Rwanda ICT sector has been rapidly growing and is the primary target for foreign direct investment into the country.

Back in 2005, $10.5 million US dollars were invested from abroad in Rwanda. And in 2017, that figure skyrocketed to $293 million US dollars.

Rwanda is Building Africa’s First Green City.

Rwanda is set to start building Africa’s first green city, focusing on green technologies and innovations for green and climate-resilient urbanisation. The pilot project is set to begin this January 2020. Feasibility studies and design were finalised in December 2019. The project, located on the outskirts of Kigali, will provide fully sustainable infrastructure, green spaces and housing for low-income people.

Kigali, Rwanda’s capital has been very active in the domain of environmental protection and is already celebrated as the third greenest city in the world yet the country is forging ahead in protecting the environment by building the first green city in Africa which is set to cost a whopping $5 billion.

According to Mr. Kayumba, the Deputy Team Leader of the green city pilot project, the funding will come from different stakeholders who have committed to pooling their resources to ensure the success of the project including the Rwanda Green Fund, the KfW Development Bank and the European engineering and architecture firm known as SWECO.

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The green city aims at having clean technologies, electric vehicles, electric bicycle and motorcycle lanes, renewable energy, sustainable waste treatment, biogas plants, and urban forests, among others, complete with a system that prevents environmental degradation and air pollution. Rwanda indeed is a forward-thinking nation with visionary leadership.

First African-made Smartphone is Manufactured in Rwanda.

The Mara phone, a smartphone manufactured entirely in Rwanda and has taken the title of the first African-made smartphone is also getting Rwanda ahead as a major tech hotspot in East Africa. Rwanda is a shining example for the rest of Africa.

Yes of course, other smartphones have been made in Africa before, but Mara phones are the first to manufacture all of its components in Africa.

Mara phones

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is a regional tech hub for East Africa, hosting events like GSMA Mobile 360 Africa and the Africa Tech Summit. This year’s Africa Tech Summit is happening from the 4th – 6th Feb 2020. I’m super excited about it because i’ll also be speaking at this year’s Summit. Those interested to experience Rwanda, business and African Tech can find out more info & Register on this link:

Africa Tech Summit

Rwanda’s government in collaboration with private investors built an enormous $300 million convention centre and this is where the Africa Tech Summit will be hosted.

Appropriate Infrastructure and Resources.

The Rwandan government is investing heavily on the infrastructure of a tech hub – over US$100 million in a 4,500-kilometer (2,796-mile) fibre network and has almost rolled out 4G internet across the entire country. Five years ago, Rwanda had little 4G coverage, but today, that number has reached over 95%. Thanks to that infrastructure, start-ups have been able to introduce a variety of projects, such as implementing a cashless tap-and-go system for the Kigali bus system and offering wi-fi on public transportation.

kLab, a government innovation lab in Rwanda provides an open space for IT entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate. Founded in 2012, it provides free space, free internet and free mentorship to its members, of which it currently has more than 1,400 members. This is very impressive as it directly addresses early pain points of startups and founders.

Rwanda is also partnering with China’s Alibaba to establish Africa’s first electronic world trade platform, which provides Rwandan enterprises with cloud computing and mobile payment services to enable local companies to sell their products and services outside of Rwanda.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not about new Apps or new technologies. It is about a new era, new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business. It is about creating world-class innovative solutions.” ~ A Line From Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted

For those interested in the Ease of Doing Business World Bank Report, you can download the entire report Here.

And if you are keen on reading more about my perspectives on technology and disruption, get my new book titled Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted.

Available on Amazon

Available @Exclusive Books SA

Available @Bargain Books SA

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Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted

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