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Nigeria Can’t Make Pencils Yet, But Rwanda Is Already Manufacturing Laptops

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When you see the phrase ‘Made in Rwanda‘, odds are you expect to see it on anything from a coffee mug to a t-shirt. What you don’t expect to see is that same phrase on a laptop.

Yes, you read that right. Rwanda is fast becoming a hub of tech goodness, especially with the recent launch of its FabLabinnovation hub, a space for members to turn tech ideas into products.

The East African country has also seen success with FOYO, a mobile pharmaceutical company, as well as a new cashless bus payment system in Kigali, the country’s capital city.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses the forum "Africa: Reshaping Partnerships for Sustainable Growth" at a pre-summit business forum ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Perth October 26, 2011. REUTERS/ Daniel Munoz
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame addresses the forum “Africa: Reshaping Partnerships for Sustainable Growth” at a pre-summit business forum ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Perth October 26, 2011. REUTERS/ Daniel Munoz

Just this past May, Rwanda hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa, and reports coming out of the country reveal that work on the Kigali Innovation City, which will house innovation labs and provide training and funding for tech companies, is already underway.

I am almost shocked by the rate of Rwanda’s growth. Its GDP growth has averaged about 8% per annum between 2001 and 2015. Child mortality has also dropped by two-thirds. What are they doing right?

In 2000, Vision 2020 was launched and the country was linked to an international network of global wireless networks, in a campaign that aims to “transform the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country.”

Laptop manufacturing in RwandaLaptop manufacturing in Rwanda

(cnn)

The rest of the world may not see the seemingly exponential growth Rwanda has achieved in the last decade but one tech has. South American tech firm Positivo BGH is now responsible for building the first ever ‘Made in Rwanda’ laptops in Kigali. So why have they chosen Rwanda?

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According to CNN, ‘proudly made in Africa’ is the tagline which the company is using in its marketing materials, and Rwandans are already benefitting from the employment opportunities created.

Juan Ignacio Ponelli, president of Africa at Positivo BGH says, “Right now we have 50 direct staff but if you count indirect, like security and cleaning, we have created about 120 positions.”

Most of the staff were trained by expatriates, come from the local area and Ponelli hopes Positivo’s move to Rwanda will create more brand awareness outside of South America.

A man walks along a street in the Rwanda's capital Kigali, May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Ed Cropley
A man walks along a street in the Rwanda’s capital Kigali, May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Ed Cropley

It’s a strategic decision for the company to go global. We are a top company in technology but we are known really just in South America. So right now we decided to go global and chose here [Rwanda] to start the international arm for this group.”

It has the challenges of being an emerging market, but we’re coming from emerging markets. We’re coming from Argentina and Brazil so we know to do it, and we’ve been doing it for 100 years,” says Ponelli, according to the CNN report.

Positivo has also reportedly secured a deal with the Rwandan government to sell them 150,000 devices each, most of which will be used for the education sector in Rwanda.

So why is Nigeria not in this position? Why are we still years away from manufacturing pencils and Rwanda – a smaller, less populous, less resource-filled country – is already manufacturing laptops? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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