The country is producing robotics and drones to tackle the continent’s health and education challenges


“We’ve been using drones to deliver blood to rural areas and to announce health messaging to the population reminding them to wear face masks and updating them on the latest cases.”



In recent years, Rwanda has been feted as a great African success story. The country has experienced a dramatic transformation that has resulted in hordes of global investors and entrepreneurs beating a path to its door.


They arrive impressed by clean streets and a business-friendly environment that makes it easy to register a company and start trading. Then they discover Rwanda’s growing reputation as a tech and innovation hub. The country boasts new initiatives like the $2-billion AfDB-funded Kigali Innovation City, which brings together a thriving community of technology companies, top research universities and biotech firms. In addition, Rwanda will soon open Africa’s first smartphone manufacturing plant as part of a tech revolution that is producing robotics and drones to tackle the continent’s health and education challenges. A pioneer of this new wave is Zipline, a tech company that uses drones to deliver medical supplies to rural areas.


In a country with one of the highest percentages of female members of Parliament, it should come as no surprise that many of Rwanda’s emerging tech entrepreneurs are women. Rwanda has been at the forefront of championing women in ICT and the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM subjects that the World Economic Forum predicts will provide 80% of new jobs in Africa by the end of this decade. 


Institutions such as the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology and the Kigali-based African Institute of Mathematics (AIMS) are training a cohort of young female STEM students. Rwanda also promotes events such as the Rwanda Coding Academy, the Miss Geek Rwanda competition and ICT Rwanda, which encourage young women to develop tech skills and business ideas. 


All this is music to the ears of Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s 37-year-old Minister of ICT and Innovation. According to Ingabire, Rwanda’s commitment to training this new generation of tech-savvy young women is already bringing successes. She points to the current COVID-19 crisis where Rwanda has performed better than many other countries, including the United States and many in Europe, by implementing high-tech solutions to control the spread of the virus.


“We’ve deployed robots into our hospitals to support our doctors. They do basic jobs like taking patients’ temperatures, which allows the doctors to concentrate on the more highly skilled tasks,” said Ingabire.


“We’ve been using drones to deliver blood to rural areas and to announce health messaging to the population reminding them to wear face masks and updating them on the latest cases.”


“And we’ve used our mobile-phone technology for data collection and AI to map the high-risk areas and help our community health workers reach those areas of most need,” Ingabire added.


In 2019, Ingabire was named one of the Top 20 of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government. In addition to her ministerial duties, Ingabire coordinated the creation of Smart Africa, an initiative that seeks to boost the continent’s broadband infrastructure to drive Africa’s socio-economic growth; and has been at the helm of Transform Africa, which brings together innovators and policymakers from across Africa to shape the continent’s digital transformation agenda.


Together with fellow Rwandan Donald Kaberuka, the former President of the African Development Bank, Ingabire is at the heart of Africa’s “Build Back Better” strategy to create a new Africa after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.


“We are working together as a global family to create a better future,” said Ingabire. “And that can’t be about one part of the world doing better than others; it requires all of us to work together to build business models that are sustainable. We are planning for the worst-case scenario and, God forbid should that happen, we’re all better placed to respond to it.”


Peter Burdin