Initiatives driving Rwanda’s journey to become a leading technology hub in Africa

By Esther Muhozi
On 10 February 2024 at 07:54

In today’s world, technology is the backbone of the development of many countries. It is one of the motivations in various sectors to achieve the desired development.

Since more than 20 years ago, Rwanda has not stopped showing the desire to develop this sector, and its vision to be the hub of technology in Africa and the world in general.

In this story, we are going to highlight some of the activities and programs of the Government of Rwanda, which continue to make it a leading country in Africa in the process of strengthening technology.

C4IR Branch

C4IR Rwanda became the inaugural host of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) department in Africa. Its establishment was sanctioned during the 2020 World Economic Forum, following an accord between the Rwandan government and the forum.

The Rwandan government has opted to leverage this center for the advancement of technology-driven governance, the promotion of artificial intelligence (AI), and the progression of advanced computer science, specifically in machine learning. The department is actively involved in diverse initiatives, such as the formulation of data protection legislation and the National Artificial Intelligence Policy.

National ’AI’ Policy

On Thursday, April 20, 2023, the Cabinet convened at Urugwiro Village and sanctioned the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy. Over the next five years, Rwanda is poised to allocate a budget of $76.5 million, equivalent to more than Rwf84 billion, to advance artificial intelligence across various sectors. The aim is to make significant strides in leveraging AI technologies. Projections suggest that this investment will yield a profit of $589 million for Rwanda during the stipulated period.

Data Protection Act

In the contemporary, rapidly evolving world, vital services such as financial transactions and daily necessities are increasingly being conducted online, underscoring their significance. To safeguard the sensitive information of individuals availing themselves of these services, legislation has been enacted for its protection.

The National Cyber Security Authority (NCSA) are the architects of this law, which places an obligation on individuals with access to personal data to ensure its safeguarding and restrict its usage to the intended purposes.

The primary recipients of this legal framework are data processors, encompassing entities such as hotels, hospitals, educational institutions, banking agents, telecommunication companies, and various other service providers that handle personal data.

These data processors are obligated to adhere to the directives set forth by data controllers, ensuring compliance with the stipulations of the law and emphasizing responsible handling of personal information.

The establishment of BionTech and IRCAD

The healthcare sector in Rwanda is actively focusing on advancing its technological capabilities. On December 18, 2023, the first unit of the BioNTech vaccine manufacturing facility, situated in the Special Economic Zone in Masoro within the Gasabo District, was inaugurated. The construction of this facility commenced in June 2022.

The vaccines produced in Rwanda will belong to the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) category, a novel approach that originated during the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The official operations of this factory are scheduled to commence in 2025.

In addition to this, IRCAD Africa, an extension of the French Institute for Research, has been introduced. IRCAD Africa provides courses in human surgery incorporating advanced technology.

The primary objective behind the launch of IRCAD Africa is to enhance surgical procedures that involve minimal body intrusion, ensuring painless treatments, reduced bleeding, and shorter hospital stays.

This technology is anticipated to significantly impact people’s lives. Furthermore, it facilitates remote surgery, allowing patients to undergo procedures without the physical presence of the surgeon, thanks to technological advancements.

Norrsken House Kigali

Norrsken, a company established in Kigali, is dedicated to assisting and supporting entrepreneurs working on technology projects that address societal challenges in Nyarwanda and globally.

Launched with a funding of $20 million, this initiative chose Kigali as its base, anticipating the city’s trajectory toward becoming a hub for modern technology in Africa. The platform serves as a collaborative space for individuals with innovative ideas and tech projects, fostering idea-sharing and providing support for implementation to enhance productivity.

In October 2023, Rwanda hosted the Regional Cybercrime Investigation Center of Excellence at the Rwanda Police Headquarters. Comprising three key divisions, the center focuses on coordinating IT security activities, analyzing data related to cybercrimes, and facilitating the exchange of information. Additionally, it houses a digital forensic lab for monitoring and investigating digital crimes, along with a training section for regional personnel dedicated to combating such offenses.

The technological landscape in Rwanda has witnessed significant progress, with approximately 682 public services now accessible through technology.

The Irembo website serves as a repository for most essential services, attracting 42% of those in need. The country’s journey to becoming a technology hub is further supported by technology-related councils, educational institutions specializing in technology, and ongoing plans for various projects.

One such initiative is the Cassava Technologies project, an investment company planning to construct a data center in Kigali at a cost exceeding Rwf32 billion.

This center aims to store customer data securely. Another upcoming project is the Rwanda Space Agency’s National Geospatial Data Hub, slated for completion in the next five years. This hub will serve as a comprehensive database, collecting and storing geological data, satellite images, and other geospatial information for diverse applications across fields.

The first unit of the BioNTech vaccine manufacturing facility, situated in the Special Economic Zone in Masoro, Gasabo District was inaugurated on December 18, 2023.
In October 2023, Rwanda hosted the Regional Cybercrime Investigation Center of Excellence at the Rwanda Police Headquarters.