Fu­ture is tied to just three let­ters

ICT will help Rwanda be­come in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion, says min­is­ter

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS FOCUS - By LI LIANXING in Ki­gali, Rwanda lil­ianx­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Although Rwanda is one of the fastest grow­ing African coun­tries, it is in in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy that it has stolen a march over other African na­tions. “It ( ICT) is the cen­tral en­gine that is driv­ing our trans­for­ma­tion to a knowl­edge-based econ­omy and has helped cre­ate wealth, jobs, tal­ent and en­trepreneurs,” says Jean Philbert Nsen­gi­mana, Rwanda’s min­is­ter of youth and ICT.

China has played a big role in Rwanda’s ICT growth through hard­ware and soft­ware sup­port and tal­ent ex­changes, he says.

“The ICT part­ner­ship with China is grow­ing steadily with more trade ex­changes and tech­nol­ogy trans­fer.”

Rwanda is one of the few African na­tions that have put ICT and youth un­der one min­istry so it can re­al­ize devel­op­ment goals in a con­certed man­ner.

“The world is go­ing for­ward, and so is Rwanda,” Nsen­gi­mana says. “We are chang­ing from an agrar­ian econ­omy to a knowl­edge- based one and hence it is im­por­tant to have a vast pool of skilled and trained young­sters, es­pe­cially in ICT, be­cause they will spear­head the fu­ture tran­si­tion.

“It is im­por­tant for youth and ICT to work in tan­dem. This will help stim­u­late the tech­nol­ogy econ­omy and also ad­dress ca­reer chal­lenge prob­lems of the youth.

“In many coun­tries, youth is al­ways con­sid­ered a so­cial sec­tor — and hence clubbed with sports and cul­ture sec­tors. But the re­al­ity is the youth need more op­por­tu­ni­ties and in­vest­ment op­tions. What they need is more ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy so that they can fly.”

Ac­cord­ing to Nsen­gi­mana, strong busi­ness con­nec­tions will help Rwanda make fur­ther strides in ICT.

“We are urg­ing the stu­dents who are pur­su­ing ICT cour­ses in China to es­tab­lish and nur­ture strong busi­ness con­nec­tions. We feel that it is a waste for stu­dents to come back with just a de­gree af­ter spend­ing four years in China.

“They should go out, speak in Chi­nese and get to un­der­stand the essence of hard work and dis­ci­pline.”

Nsen­gi­mana says his govern­ment will strive to at­tract more Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to Rwanda by pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary ground sup­port. “We want more Chi­nese in­sti­tu­tions to come here and set up re­search in­sti­tutes.”

Rwanda is also an ideal busi­ness lo­ca­tion be­cause of its prox­im­ity with all the ma­jor con­ti­nen­tal des­ti­na­tions. ICT seems to be a good start­ing point for the re­gional hub strat­egy given that Rwanda has few nat­u­ral re­sources and manufacturing fa­cil­i­ties to of­fer.

“The most im­por­tant thing is to do busi­ness it­self and try to sort out how to make a fa­cil­i­tated and con­ducive busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” Nsen­gi­mana says. “ICT can’t be sep­a­rated from other sec­tors. It has to be po­si­tioned in such a man­ner that it helps cre­ate a busi­ness­friendly en­vi­ron­ment.”

Although it lacks agri­cul­tural and manufacturing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Rwanda has an abun­dant sup­ply of hu­man re­sources and the re­quired lo­gis­tic knowl­edge to at­tract tal­ent from all over the world, Nsen­gi­mana says.

Tal­ent is still the main chal­lenge for Rwanda’s fur­ther progress in ICT be­cause sup­ply still lags be­hind de­mand, he says.

In Ki­gali, the cap­i­tal, ef­forts are be­ing made to bridge the tal­ent gap. The Rwan­dan govern­ment has got the US-based Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity to es­tab­lish and op­er­ate a mas­ter’s de­gree pro­gram in Ki­gali.

“Our en­deavor is to cre­ate in­no­va­tive pro­grams that have the po­ten­tial to have a pro­found, last­ing im­pact and raise the tal­ent bar,” says Nsen­gi­mana. “We an­tic­i­pate more for­eign ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions com­ing to Rwanda in the near fu­ture.”

“There is no quick fix for tal­ent en­hance­ment. It is a painstak­ing and long process that needs con­sis­tent and last­ing in­vest­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to the min­is­ter, there are also chal­lenges in at­tract­ing in­vest­ment.

“Although FDI has been in­creas­ing over the past 10 years, it is still not enough. What we are of­fer­ing is an op­por­tu­nity for in­vestors to show­case in­tel­li­gent tech­nolo­gies and skills so that they can pros­per and thrive in a ro­bust en­vi­ron­ment,” he says.

“What we need is an ecosys­tem in this field. You need dif­fer­ent types of skills and ex­po­sure for young peo­ple. We need to build part­ner­ships and con­nec­tions with ev­ery part of the world.”

To bet­ter serve in­vestors and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, Rwanda has al­ready started to boost the ICT in­dus­try, Nsen­gi­mana says.

“One of the steps is ob­vi­ously by in­creas­ing ac­cess to de­vices, net­works and broad­band. The next step in­volves boost­ing skills and en­sur­ing that peo­ple know how to use them. Yet an­other strat­egy is to fo­cus more on ap­pli­ca­tions, con­tent and ser­vices. That’s why we are talk­ing more about smart ed­u­ca­tion, smart health­care or smart agri­cul­ture. The last step is creat­ing a bet­ter le­gal and reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment so that ICT com­pa­nies can flour­ish, com­pete and foster in­no­va­tion.”

Nsen­gi­mana says ICT ac­cess has al­ready im­proved in Rwanda, giv­ing room for more op­ti­mism.

Jean Philbert Nsen­gi­mana, Rwanda’s min­is­ter of youth and ICT, is aware of the im­por­tance of busi­ness con­nec­tions.

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