Rwanda edges closer to claiming Africa’s tech hub position


Rwanda could probably be the only nation in the Sub Saharan Africa region to have embraced technology in dealing with the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In late May, the East African nation became a success case study in yet another medical milestone when it incorporated using robots to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

While using robotics is not new in health care, Rwanda is setting the pace on the continent in embedding technology in its medical field. The country has for long been using drones to deliver blood to hospitals in the land of a thousand hills.

Read: The potential of the fourth industrial revolution in Africa

To overcome the terrain challenges, Rwanda has been using drone technology called ‘Zipline’ to deliver blood in a short time where in some cases the time has been reduced from four hours to just 15 minutes in some cases.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, the country turned to drones to police citizens and enforce lockdown measures while at the same time informing them of how to stay safe from the virus.

With the country aspiring to be the region’s technology hub, it has lived up to this expectation showing its peers how to make tech work for their people. So successful is the Zipline that it is has become the means of delivering much-needed drugs for cancer during the coronavirus lockdown.

The robots are helping in hospitals to monitor patients’ vitals and take temperatures among others cutting down the interaction between nurses and patients.

This innovation was enabled by the UNDP which was looking for unconventional approaches and technologies to combat the spread of the virus in Rwanda. The UNDP Accelerator Lab partnered with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation to acquire and deploy five smart anti-epidemic robots for use in two COVID-19 treatment centres and at the Kigali International Airport.

The robots have the capacity to screen between 50 to 150 people per minute, delivering food and medication to patient rooms, capture data (video and audio), and notify officers on duty about detected abnormalities for timely response and case management.

As a trendsetter, Rwanda is the only African country that was ranked in the top 10 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

Due to its high number of women lawmakers and ministers, the country was ranked in the top four in the Report’s political empowerment category.

A 2018 pilot on empowering women was carried out in the country alongside Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

The African Development Bank (AfDB’)s Coding for Employment initiative is establishing 130 ICT centres for excellence in Africa, training 234,000 youths for employability and entrepreneurship to create over 9 million jobs.

AfDB’s Hendrina C. Doroba who is the Manager in the Education, Human Capital and Employment Division at the Bank says that the Rwandan government has championed the cause of women in ICT and in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as STEM). This has been made possible by driving initiatives like the establishment of the Carnegie Mellon University-Africa campus.  At the campus, students from 17 different countries pursue highly specialized ICT skills.

In addition, the country also hosts the African Institute of Mathematics (AIMS) which is now recruiting balanced cohorts of women and men.

The University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology has also for many years produced women leaders in the ICT sector in Rwanda and globally.

Read Also: Equip farmers with technology to transform agriculture- AfDB boss says

Rwanda’s government also supports initiatives such as the Miss Geek Rwanda competition, an initiative of Girls in ICT Rwanda, which aims to encourage school-age girls, even those in remote areas, to develop innovative tech or business ideas and to generally immerse themselves in ICT.

The Miss Geek initiative has now been rolled out in other countries in the region.

Doroba adds that other African countries have a lot to learn from Rwanda’s approach to the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

“The government of Rwanda has been a trailblazer in using innovation to improve public services across the country using the e-governance platform Irembo, to bring government services closer to citizens. In addition, the government is driving national digital skilling campaigns by championing digital ambassador programmes and platforms such as Smart Africa, which has organized the annual Transform Africa summit since 2013,” she added.

Still, the other nations should push for gender equality since gender gaps are evident in several spheres of society.

Other African countries should create an enabling business environment which is pro-entrepreneurship and welcoming to ideas and concepts testing.

With the disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, there is no doubt that the world has reached a point of no return when it comes to embedding technology in the different aspects of life.

Rwanda is becoming the best case for Africa bringing a revolution that may transform the continent from the decades-long tag of being dependent on others to the independence that many yearn for.

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