Rwanda’s soaring ambitions: A strategic hub for drone innovation and industry growth

By Esther Muhozi
On 30 November 2023 at 09:09

Positioning itself as a hub for drone operations, Rwanda is actively seeking key players in the drone industry, focusing on aspects like regulatory support, incentives, technology pipeline, talent, and market demand.

The Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire underscored these priorities during the "Unlocking Opportunities: Advancing Rwanda’s Drone Ecosystem" event on November 29 at Kigali Serena Hotel.

The gathering brought together industry leaders, experts, academia, and partners to delve into the current state and future prospects of the drone sector in Rwanda and beyond.

Ingabire articulated the vision of Rwanda as a proof-of-concept hub, citing examples like Zipline, a company that originated in Rwanda and expanded globally. Rwanda’s Emerging Technology Strategy has identified the drone sector as crucial for development, foreseeing its impact on various sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Highlighting the global growth of the drone industry, propelled by technological advancements and regulatory support, Ingabire emphasized a projected compound annual growth rate of 27 percent.

Asia leads in drone market growth, followed by the Middle East and Africa, indicating significant potential in these regions.

Ingabire also drew attention to India’s aspirations to become a global drone hub by 2030, emphasizing local manufacturing, integrated drone ecosystems, and research and development investments. She encouraged learning from India’s experiences to foster a thriving drone ecosystem in Rwanda.

Emphasizing safety and regulations, Ingabire stressed their pivotal role in the development of the drone ecosystem. The anticipated Drone Operation Centre, directed by Dr. Rene Kabarisa, could commence operations next year.

The Rwf12 billion project aims to establish a state-of-the-art infrastructure in Huye, nurturing the drone ecosystem and positioning itself as a regional hub for the drone industry.

Dr. Rene Kabarisa, the director of the Drone Operation Centre, outlined the envisioned features of the centre, including serving as a safe testing ground for drones, a business incubation space, an innovation centre, and a co-working space.

Additionally, the centre will support drone manufacturing, testing, training, research and development activities, and provide space for recreational and hobbyist drone flying in a safer environment, as per MINICT.

Minister Ingabire has underscored the importance of enticing key players in the drone sector, taking into account elements like regulatory backing, incentives, technological advancements, skilled workforce, and market requirements.