The government is very ambitious to develop and position Rwanda as a knowledge society and gain regional and international recognition as location for ICT services in Africa. Could you please give us some insights into the strategy and how local companies benefit from it today?
Tradable services will have to play a key role in Rwanda’s ambitious economic transformation. As a government, we therefore strive to continuously improve the attractiveness of the sector, focusing on 3 pillars:
1st – Business environment & safety: Rwanda offers a remarkable investment climate. According to the World Bank it is the second easiest place to do business in Africa (after Mauritius) and 38th globally, placing it before countries like the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium. It is safe to walk at night and corruption virtually non-existent.
2nd – High quality infrastructure: Rwanda offers high-quality infrastructure, from well maintained roads and reliable electricity to a country wide fiber network and an LTE network covering 95% of Rwanda.
3rd – Growing talent base: With 70% of its population under the age of 30, Rwanda has a fast growing talent base. Due to its unique history, Rwanda has plenty bi-lingugal (English and French) talent. The bold investments that the government made in education over the last years are also starting to show results and with Carnegie Mellon’s Africa campus, the Africa Leadership University and the African Institute for Mathematical Science Rwanda hosts some of the continent’s best universities.
Beyond those 3 pillars, there are also several synergies with other key initiatives. Through its growing conference tourism (Kigali is now ranked the second preferred city for conference tourism in Africa by the ICCA) and its increasing pan-african and international flight connectivity, it becomes ever easier and convenient for clients to visit Rwanda and see their operations.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for a) clients of Rwandan
ICT service providers and b) companies that consider investments in own delivery centers in Rwanda?
I believe that the greatest opportunity for sourcing companies and delivery centers lie in the strategic diversification that Rwanda can offer. Bi-lingual in English and French, it can serve as an alternative location for operators already present in countries like South Africa and Morocco.
The recent covid crisis revealed the location concentration risk that many companies face. Rwanda’s impressive management of the crisis has not only allowed it to keep its death toll relatively small but Rwanda is also one of the few countries that have continuously been on the EU’s list of safe countries. Combined with an infrastructure and regulatory environment that enables reliable delivery even from home office, many companies have shown renewed interest in Rwanda. In terms of sectors we see a lot of interest in generic call centers as well as tech support and niche sectors such as app testing and AI.
Could you give us some examples of local ICT or BPO services companies / projects and or foreign investments in the ICT sector?
The recently announced establishment of a new, 1,000 people tech support center by Tek Experts is properly the most important foreign investment that we have seen in that sector over the last year. What makes this project particularly exciting to me is the partnership with the government and universities to further build a suitable talent pipeline.
There are also several local firms that are offering exciting IT solutions mainly for the domestic market but with increasing traction across the continent. For example, Irembo is a platform that offers all online access to a wide array of government services, AC group offers solutions for public transport operators and already scaled to Cameroon and is testing its solutions in several other countries and Awesomity Lab developed a mobility platform for Volkswagen, which is piloting their mobility services in Rwanda.
About Tim Gengnagel: Tim leads RDB’s Deal Accelerator Division, which is responsible to identify investment opportunities, structure strategic partnerships with the private sector and improve sectoral competitiveness of Rwanda’s priority sectors. Tim first moved to East-Africa in 2008 to develop sustainable business models for renewable energy applications, working with the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and his own company, which he led until 2014. He holds a Bachelor in Philosophy and Economics from Bayreuth University and a Master in International Development from Harvard University.