$68m energy project gives 50,000 Rwandan households first taste of electricity

The Eastern Province of Rwanda has seen 50,000 of its households connected to the national electric grid for the first time following the successful implementation of a four year $68 million energy project by the Rwanda Energy Group in partnership with a number of private firms.

This was disclosed during a validation workshop themed around the socio-economic impact of the electrification project where special reports on the impact of the project were received and discussed. Benefits, according to Epimak Rutingama, were mostly in the areas of income generation, health and education.

The survey showed that users of electricity were considerably better off than the non-users with regard to their socio-economic status and living conditions. Socio-economic status and living conditions of household heads as measured by different variables appear to be strongly associated with using electricity which resulted in a greater level of satisfaction with their life situation.

Provincial Governor Odette Uwamariya admitted that the project had doubled electrification levels in her province from 11% to 22% thus allowing trading centers to upgrade and decentralize public services. In her words; “Schools, health centers, Saccos (credit and savings cooperatives) benefitted. We can now go beyond just home lighting to starting agro-based industries.”

Also, and more in line with Governor Uwamariya’s comments, modern energy use may enable the poor in developing countries to engage in new or improved income generating activities eventually leading to an improvement of their living conditions. This is a productive use of energy, not merely a consumptive one. Lastly, exclusion from modern energy might be a direct indicator of poverty.

Forbes lists Clarisse Iribagiza among top 30 promising young entrepreneurs in Africa

Forbes lists Clarisse Iribagiza among top 30 promising young entrepreneurs in Africa

In its list of 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa 2015, Forbes has featured Clarisse Iribagiza, CEO of HeHe Labs (formerly HeHe Limited):

Iribagiza, 26, runs Kigali-based mobile technology company HeHe Limited, which builds custom mobile applications for businesses, provides 24/7 online and offline support and cloud storage services. Iribagiza founded the company in 2010 after winning a $50,000 grant from Inspire Africa, a Rwandan TV entrepreneurial contest. Iribagiza’s clientele includes a number of government agencies in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Youth and ICT wins continental social media award

The Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT) won the continental social media award in the category of Government/Public Sector for the annual Social Media Awards Africa (SMAA), a premier continental initiative poised to recognise and reward excellence, creativity and impact in the use of social media tools and platforms by individuals and organisations.

— Social Media Awards (@sma_africa) January 24, 2015

The event held in Lagos on Sunday, 25 January 2015, brought together social media influencers, experts, enthusiasts and policy makers that would explore and forge new developmental paths for Africa.

This follows the closure of the voting window for the continent-wide initiative on social media development across Africa last December. SMAA is a premier continental initiative, which seeks to recognise and reward creativity, excellence and impact in the usage of social media across Africa.

Commenting on the award, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Youth and ICT, Emmanuel Habumuremyi noted that the Ministry embraced the use of social media through all networks including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Flickr to be able to engage with the general public, especially young people and ICT players.

Mr. Habumuremyi stressed that MYICT embraced social media to interact but also disseminate information; and it has become such an essential tool of communication that is essential avenue to receiving feedback from the stakeholders.

The Twitter account of the ministry, @MyictRwanda, was created in January 2012 and has since attracted over 12,700 followers.

Later last year, the MYCT launched the YouthConnekt Hangout, which serves as a  platform for the youth to discuss with decision makers and opinion leaders.

Using Google+ and other networks, YouthConnekt Hangout broadcasts twice a month discussions on several topics, including youth empowerment, raising capital, role of young people in development, as well as achieving lasting peace.

The Social Media Awards Africa is an annual gathering of business leaders, social media experts and influencers, development experts and other relevant stakeholders who are positioned to promote development in Africa through digital and social media exploration.

SMAA produced 15 awardees out of 43 finalists who emerged through a rigorous screening process from 923 nominations from over 26 African countries across Africa.

Rwandan entrepreneurs MPESA’s new rival featured on Innovate Africa on Al Jazeera

In this week’s episode of Innovate Africa, co-host Tapfuma Makina visits Nairobi to meet Kariuki Gathitu, founder of Zege Technologies. Zege has launched MPayer, a mobile payment alternative to MPESA, aimed at small businesses.

“In Kenya, 11-and-a-half million people use simple cellphones to pay their bills,“ says Tapfuma. “That’s more than double the number that have bank accounts… It all began when Kenyans who had no bank accounts began to trade their airtime to pay for services. This system was so successful that it was fine-tuned and called MPESA, the Swahili word for money. It is now the most widely used form of payment cross the African continent… But while MPESA works well for individual cash payments, it’s not designed to facilitate a business. But now there is MPayer, a new mobile innovation designed specifically for small businesses in Kenya.”

Co-host Ndoni Khanyile visits Rwanda to interview Henri Nyakarundi, an entrepreneur who has designed and franchised solar-powered mobile phone charging kiosks.

“The lack of electricity was a big problem in the region,” says the Ared founder. “60% of the population has a cellphone but less than 15% has access to electricity.

The kiosks are small enough to be towed by a bicycle to wherever people will pay a small fee to charge their phones. The kiosks can charge up to 30 phones at a time and Henri now has 24 franchisees operating across Rwanda.

Rwandan software CEO wins business competition for USD$150,000 [video]

Ni Nyampinga journalist Ritha Marie Clarisse Ubumwe had an interview with Ms. Lilian Uwintwali, Founder and CEO of M-Ahwiii Ltd, a Rwanda software company.

Lilian recently won the business competition 40 Chances and walked away with a fellowship and prize money amounting to $150,000. This prize was jointly awarded by Howard G. Buffet Foundation, Tony Blair Governance Initiative (AGI) and World Food Prize Foundation.

Lilian hopes her mobile application, Agro-FIBA, will help improve the lives of farmers and also increase food security in Rwanda.

She also discusses her life as a young entrepreneur and encourages young women to work hard for their dreams:

Chinese smartphone makers strengthen foothold in Rwanda

Chinese smartphone makers, Tecno, Konka and other Asian brands like KZG and Itel have been carrying out huge marketing of their brands in Rwanda over the past year. Their strategy is multipronged they are radio and TV smartphone brands adverts as well as billboards of the same along city streets and other places.

Frank Gakara, the general manager of the Tecno Rwanda franchise, toldBusiness Times that Rwandans, especially the middle-income earners, prefer smartphones, thanks to their many user-friendly applications.

Most Rwandans cannot afford high-end brands like Samsungs Galaxy series, Apples iPhone, BlackBerry or Alcatel, opting for the more affordable Chinese-made phones.

Though some people, especially the corporates, would like to acquire the latest smartphone brands at any cost, Gakara feels the Rwandan market, just like the rest of the African market has been ignored by large smartphone makers like Apple, HTC, Samsung and Blackberry. He says brands like Tecno have developed their African growth strategy by producing and selling volumes at lower prices compared to the other brands:

The Chinese have prioritised the African market… they have looked at the gaps in the market and tried to fix them. Previously, we didn’t have service phone centres, but today we have five of them in the city and others in most of the districts.

People love something that is affordable, can perform all the functions and are easy to repair.

Tecno plans to set up an electronics factory at the Kigali Special Economic Zone and a ‘Tecno building’ in town, once they get the necessary approvals from the Rwanda Development Board:

We want to support government’s vision of making Rwanda an Information Communication Technology (ICT) hub. The factory will enable us supply affordable electronic devices like smartphones in the country and in the region, thereby reducing transport costs between China and Rwanda.

June statistics from RURA show that there were 2,571,500 mobile Internet subscribers, representing a 25 per cent penetration rate for smartphones.

The data also indicated that the mobile phone penetration rate in Rwanda stood at 7,214,385 people, leaving much more to be desired in terms of growing the number of smartphone users

Rwandan youth encouraged to promote peace online

Rwandas Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, has advised young people to promote peace by using todays available technologies. On Tuesday last week he participated in a public YouthConnekt Google+ hangout, discussing the role of youth in peace building. A video of the live broadcast can be viewed below.

YouthConnekt is a social platform in Rwanda that helps participants to share and engage in youthful activities that create positive-forward impact in the economy. Both youth and ICT players or anyone interested in these sectors are encouraged to contribute to the country’s developmental agenda through debates, particularly through their video conferencing hangouts.
Remarking on the potential of youth and the use of technology, Nsengimana said:

There is a very nice meeting between Youth, ICT and Peace because with new technologies like the one we are using right now, we can really promote peace and take peace where peace is not. At least we can carry a message of peace.

Peace building effort has to be a holistic effort; it doesn’t just touch on elements of violence, it also connected with access to basic necessities like food, shelter, security, education; it’s all interconnected, and that’s why any effort thats contribute to uplifting the standard of living of people actually indirectly contributes to peace building.

Jeremy Gilleh, founder of British non-profit organisation Peace One Day, shared during the broadcast:

We need young people to believe particularly that peace is possible and the only way is showing them the vision of peace is coming together with them.

Learn more about YouthConnekt and their upcoming live broadcasts on Google+ and YouTube through their Facebook page.

Liquid Telecom reveals 100Mbps FTTH progress

At AfricaCom 2014, which is currently taking place at CTICC in Cape Town, Liquid Telecom unveiled its progress in laying “Fibre To The Home” which it is, according to the company, providing to homes and small businesses with unlimited data packages as well as speeds up to 100Mbps.

According to Liquid Telecom, the service has already gone live in Zambia as well as in Zimbabwe via retail ISP ZOL Zimbabwe, part of the Liquid Telecom Group. Plans are now underway to launch FTTH on a wholesale and retail basis in Kenya, Rwanda and two further countries early next year.

At AfricaCom 2014, Liquid Telecom’s CEO Nic Rudnick revealed that the company is laying more than 100km of new fibre every week. Rudnick revealed that Liquid Telecom’s goal is to deliver “The Real Internet” into Africa by setting the highest possible standards for internet access with the fastest available broadband speeds and widest penetration across the continent.

Rudnick, who was recently named as one of the 100 most influential people in the global telecoms industry, outlined the four requirements needed for FTTH to work in Africa:- International connectivity at a reasonable price – provided by subsea cables.

Terrestrial backbone networks bringing capacity inland – Liquid Telecom has spent more than five years building what is now Africa’s largest fibre network spanning more than 18,000km across borders and connecting to all the subsea cables.

Fibre rings around towns – Liquid Telecom’s fibre network includes fibre rings around the major towns and cities in DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as a regional fibre ring around the whole of East Africa.  The rings enable Liquid Telecom to guarantee uptime as traffic can be rerouted in the event of a fibre cut so that service is not interrupted. Liquid Telecom builds its own fibre branches both within and outside the rings to provide FTTH.

GPON FTTH technology – Liquid Telecom has proved that GPON technology is the most suitable FTTH technology for the African market.

According to Rudnick, Liquid’s FTTH service enables faster links to the Internet, which essentially brings smaller businesses the same speeds as large corporations, as well as enables the use of cloud-based services. Rudnick stated that:

Our FTTH service has made accessing streamed, high-definition media via the Internet a reality for homes and small businesses in some of the remotest parts of Africa.