How technology is transforming Rwanda, 20 years after the genocide

Rwanda One Laptop per Child Project
Rwanda One Laptop per Child Project
Rwanda One Laptop per Child Project

By Monty Munford,  The Telegraph

Twenty years ago, the country of Rwanda was cleaved apart after the Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda were killed in an air crash.

Hours after their plane was shot down, revenge killings began in the capital Kigali with Hutus murdering the minority Tutsis. One hundred days later, more than a million people had been killed; one more African tragedy in a continent seemingly constantly benighted.


In the past 20 years, Africa has changed beyond recognition. Now more than 80 per cent of Africans have mobile phones, IBM has staked the company on its Project Lucy initiative in Africa and life expectancy in Rwanda itself has doubled.

Far from being a benighted continent, it is now an enlightened one. While there is still far to go, improvements in health, sanitation, financial inclusion, water and agriculture have been extraordinary, much of it arising from mobile phone use and applications that are based on ingenuity, not overseas aid.

Under conditions that are almost unimaginably difficult, a nation of hackers are accelerating Africa’s progress on an hourly basis. In the cities of Lagos, Nairobi, Accra and even Rwanda’s Kigali, African tech clusters and emulators of Silicon Valley are forming, attracting talent from inside and outside Africa.

The people with money are interested as well. Rather like the Imperialist scramble for Africa at the end of the 19th Century, investors are putting money into projects. In Nigeria, e-commerce has rocketed and this country may even see the first commercial drone delivery companies, long before Jeff Bezos and his Amazon Air finally lifts off.

One such investor, is Vital Capital, a $350 million equity fund that not only wants to deliver high financial returns for investors, but at the same wants to enhance the life of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Its team has 30 years of experience on the continent and is focused on the development of infrastructure, something Vital describes as ‘agro-industrial solutions of national importance’.

The sectors it works in include urban community housing, agriculture, healthcare, renewable energy, education and water; it has deployed billions of pounds in hundreds of these macro infrastructure ventures.

From dairy farm projects in Uganda, to providing 40,000 affordable homes in Angola and waste-water reclamation and treatment in Mozambique, Vital’s investments offers value to investors and strong long tail benefits to Africans, otherwise known as ‘impact investment’.

Eytan Stibbe is the founding partner and CEO of Vital Capital and an Africophile who is working with some of the world’s most influential people to improve the lives of Africans through impact investment. Speaking at recent events in Tokyo, New York and London, his vision for Africa is defined by the term.

“Every one of our investments starts with an understanding of local requirements – the needs, the culture and the economic and social realities and aspirations. Then we deploy two teams – one impact-focused, the other financial – each with equal influence and stature. This means we make, monitor and ultimately exit investments that ensure people and profits prosper together,” he says.

Governments also need to buy into the dual goal of investment return and infrastructure growth, one recent example coming to Mozambique after initial success a continent away in Lima, Peru. Vital has invested $20 million investment in CTG Capital, a company that treats contaminated water with plans to operate these plants for up to 30 years.

“The Government of Mozambique considers Vital-Capital fund an important partner for the implementation of the development of new towns and cities into communities with access to the housing program, with access roads, potable water, sanitation, health and education,” said Mr. Cadmiel Filiane Mutemba, The Minister of public works and housing of the Republic of Mozambique.

Two decades on from the the genocide of Rwanda, Africa has been transformed by technology based on people and profits and impact investment such as that practised by Vital Capital. This new reality augurs well for the future of Africa and the next 20 years will change the face not just of Africa, but also the world.

Source: The Telegraph