Rwanda: A Rising International Hotspot

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KIGALI, Rwanda — After Rwanda’s genocide of 1994, the presence of telecom companies has grown exponentially. The minister Jean-Pierre Nsengimana is jumpstarting tech companies to inspire the investment of large multinational companies in the region, which has led to a rising international hotspot in Rwanda.

Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa with a GDP growth of around 8 percent per year between 2001 and 2014.

Toward the peak of 2012, accessing Gmail was a difficult task for most internet users in Rwanda. Today the country’s capital, Kigali, has the availability to stream movies or video chat. Rwanda is now a rising international hotspot with 17 internet service providers with multiple packages, such as the popular 4G LTE, or fibre-to-the-home.

“The case for government subsidy of high-speed internet rollout is hard to make even in rich countries,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development told The Financial Times in This is Africa.

Rwanda’s exports are based on natural resources, including tea, coffee and oil, to support the economy. Nsengimana set a transformative agenda to move Rwanda from an “agrarian economy to an information rich, knowledge-based one by 2020,” according to the 2015 National ICT Strategy.

The International Monetary Fund expects the economy to slow down this year but pick up in 2018, forecasting around 6 percent growth in 2016 compared with 6.9 percent last year.

The Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) began negotiating with the Rwandan government in 1995, but success was prevented by the political unrest and genocide. Service went live in 1998, and incentives were necessary in order to attract customers.

Now the company owns the largest market share in Rwanda. There are more than 4 million subscribers out of roughly 12 million residents. Tigo, the second largest telecom service in Rwanda, entered the market in 2009.

MTN was the “first operation coming from post-apartheid South Africa, and coming to post-genocide Rwanda required leadership, insight and foresight,” Sam Nkusi told The Financial Times in This is Africa.

In 2015, 46 percent of Rwanda’s foreign direct investment supported the Information and communication technologies (ICT) sector, according to the World Bank. After the genocide, foreign aid has exponentially increased the rebuilding of infrastructure. Thirty to forty percent of the government’s revenue is derived from aid.

This past February, the Smart Kigali Initiative allowed for more than 400 buses to be equipped with 4G internet connection. The city became the first across the continent to gain internet access on public transportation, according to The New York Times. 4G solutions are benefiting the general population of Rwanda as a rising international hotspot.

Rachel Williams

Photo: Flickr

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