The streets of Kigali were abuzz last week with people who have come to the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF). Hosting such a large conference shows how far Rwanda has come. 1.7 million Rwandans have lifted themselves out of poverty in the last decade. The Rwandan government plans to continue building on these successes. This densely populated land-locked country still faces many challenges but has big ambitions, it aims to become East Africa’s tech hub.
Kigali’s public buses are already moving towards a cashless ticketing system, over 70% of Rwandans have a mobile phone, and there are plans for the world’s first drone-port to be built there.
Speaking at WEF, President Paul Kagame acknowledged the scepticism this plan initially faced. “People thought we were crazy talking about technology” he said, “told us we could not afford to talk about it.” Since then, he explained, technology has already shown its potential to “reinforce all other sectors” and to support the country’s growth.
Supporting Rwanda’s tech entrepreneurs
Technology could allow this small landlocked country lacking in natural resources to grow its economy, increase exports and create jobs. Making this vision of a reality means providing opportunities to young Rwandan tech entrepreneurs.
Last week, AGI’s Patron, Tony Blair met some of the young Rwandans that are forging the future of tech in Kigali.
K-lab supports young digital entrepreneurs to develop new smartphone apps and the newly launched Fablab provides a start-up role for the fabrication of new hardware. Places like these provide space for young Rwandan entrepreneurs to collaborate, helping new graduates and other innovators turn their ideas into viable business models.
After the visit, Mr Blair spoke to the BBC about the transformative potential of such work, noting that “technology can be a bridge into the future that helps Rwanda leap ahead.” Supporting these young entrepreneurs will help to put Rwanda in a position to capitalize on the potential of technology.
Rwanda has come a long way, confounding expectations with its rapid progress. Now technology presents them with a chance to accomplish the extraordinary again and the Rwandan government aims to seize this opportunity. They are not alone in this. Mr Blair recently highlighted the potential of technology to foster economic growth and improve lives across the continent.
Reflecting on the how transformative an African digital revolution could be, he encouraged optimism and ambition, arguing that:
“Optimism has seen African countries embrace technology, and use it as a force for good. This is right, because if history has taught us anything, it’s that pessimists tend to be poor guides to the future.”
[Feedimage: OLPC, Kigali]