The Tech Revolution That Could Save Rwanda

21 years ago this week, nearly 1 million Rwandans were murdered in one of the most horrific conflicts the African continent has ever seen. The genocide lasted only 100 days, but took almost 15% of the country’s population, and left deep scars on the small equatorial nation. Today, the former German (and later Belgian) colony is emerging from this dark chapter, and under the leadership of President Paul Kagame it has become one of Africa’s most developed countries. Indeed, many see Rwanda as the continent’s new tech capital – ‘The Silicon Valley of Africa.’

Rwanda’s government has taken some bold steps to pull off this rebound. Along with a new national flag came a spate of new infrastructure investment, a redrawing of provincial borders, and a transitional justice system charged with the task of bringing those responsible for the genocide to justice. Now a new government initiative entitled Vision 2020 is aiming to expand technology and connectivity, and to transform the agrarian nation into a digitized, technologically viable middle-income country – all in the next 5 years. So far, the results are impressive: working with an economy almost entirely based on subsistence farming, the country has become one of the 20 fastest-growing in the world. Rwanda also has the world’s highest proportion of females in government positions in proportion to the population.

A small country, Rwanda is largely lacking in natural resources, so technology is especially crucial in the country’s development. As Mark Walker, Sub-Saharan Africa analyst for International Data Corporation, explains: “Not only are [the government’s strategies] reducing the cost of making technology accessible, they’re also creating jobs. Rwanda is neither mineral-rich nor oil-rich, and to that end, technology is a great enabler.”

TakePart World visited open-innovation space K-Lab in Kigali, which gives Rwandans a shared, educational environment where they can incubate their tech ideas; here is the video. For more background, read the report here. For a more contrary view of President Kagame and his ongoing role in Rwanda’s development, take a look at this recent article from The Economist.



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