By Milan Lietava, Director of Network Operations (EMEA)
Stroll to the top of any one of the thousand hills in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali — and yes, there are literally more than 1,000 rolling hills in this magnificent city — and undoubtedly you will begin to see and truly understand The Vision. A country that until two decades ago was infamously known only for a genocide in which an estimated one million people died is now fast becoming the next Silicon Valley, an epicenter of technology that many say will help drive the digitization of the entire African continent.
Soon after taking office in 2000, President Paul Kagame launched the Vision 2020 project, a strategic initiative designed to transform Rwanda — a nation of 12 million people in an area that is half the size of Maryland — from an agriculture-based economy into an information and communications technology (ICT) services hub. The results to date are impressive. 4G coverage now extends to 95% of the nation, enabling people to access a cashless system on buses and Wi-Fi on public transportation. Solar kiosks using GPS technology bring the distribution of digital services to rural and urban areas. Smart technology is also being used in schools, hospitals and in drones to deliver blood and medicines to rural areas.
All of which makes Kigali a mecca in the making for high-tech OEMs in network hardware, data storage, network security, telecommunications, and retail technology. They need to be close to their installed base and have a trusted partner such as Flash Global to handle critical spare parts management, trade compliance, and other value-added services. That is what is required to meet the growing demands of technology-craving consumers in Rwanda and Africa.
As a partner manager for Flash Global, I first arrived in Kigali in 2016 to help a longtime Flash customer — a $50 billion multinational technology conglomerate — set up operations in Africa for the first time.
It’s easy to understand why they picked Kigali as their entry point into Africa. At the time, 15 years since the inception of the Vision 2020 project, Rwanda’s economy had grown steadily at 7 percent, making it one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Since then, I have helped two more Flash customers establish a strong foothold in Kigali: one is a multinational enterprise information technology company and the other is a computer networking company.
Then and now, the signs of progress are everywhere. Modern office buildings and data centers have replaced dilapidated structures. In 2019 two major technology centers opened — the Digital Transformation Center and the Center for Audio-Visual Technology. Construction also continues on Kigali Innovation City, a sprawling complex inspired by the Silicon Valley area in California. All of this is attracting young entrepreneurs and multinational corporations alike, giving them easy access to high-speed internet, the latest network hardware and software, and the mentors they need to prototype, commercialize and expand their solutions.
Like the rest of the world, Rwanda has not been spared the economic ravages of COVID-19. In May, Finance Minister Uzziel Ndajigimana predicted the nation’s economic growth would fall to 2% this year from 9.4% in 2019, before rebounding to 6.3% next year and 8% in 2022. Optimism for such a relatively quick recovery is a rooted in Vision 2020 and its long-term 2050 vision, which focuses on connecting cities, broadband, optimal space utilization and fully leveraging the Internet of Things.
Another equally important facet of Vision 2020 called for the Rwandan government to ensure effective governance, accountability and transparency in doing business — all vital steps in attracting innovative entrepreneurs and established multinational corporations. The world has taken notice:
Those rankings should make you feel more at ease about doing business in Rwanda. Consider this, too: Rwandans are embracing technology like never before. They take pride in what they’re building in Kigali. The streets are wide and clean. Data centers and other infrastructure are state-of-the-art. The Vision is coming to life — in the land of a thousand hills, there is a mountain of opportunity.
The digitization of Africa has been a hot topic for years. Now is the time to get in on the action. Flash Global is the right partner to help you get set up in Rwanda or any other country in Africa. We provide end-to-end service supply chain solutions, including spare parts logistics and trade compliance, to emerging and established high-tech companies. If you’re ready to expand into Africa, we’re here to help. Contact us today.
About the Author: Milan Lietava is the Director of Network Operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa region. He is instrumental in implementing new business on behalf of Flash Global customers and monitoring the performance of regional distribution centers in EMEA.