Leveraging Rwanda’s position as a tech hub

Mwangi Karanja Partner, PwC Rwanda 02 August, 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

In the not-too-distant past, innovative technological advancement was thought to be the domain of specialty IT and technology companies. Now, however, a shift has clearly taken place: fuelled by competitive pressure, cutting-edge technologies have disrupted business models and industries to a remarkable extent. These days, technological innovation is essential for organisations that intend to thrive – not just survive.

Rwanda is already a well-known tech hub in Africa, creating the kind of tech eco-system that attracts the interest of investors and start-up entrepreneurs alike. The Government of Rwanda’s own ICT policies and solutions have helped to lay a solid foundation in sectors like transport, governance, education, agriculture and trade. The health sector, in particular, has benefited from the Government’s focus. Numerous innovative technology solutions have been deployed in COVID-19 case management and other relevant areas.


Business desk with computer on it

More broadly, Rwanda’s status as a tech hub is likely to earn a major boost following the establishment of Kigali Innovation City. Part of the Government’s Vision 2020 program, this smart city project is designed to accommodate world-class universities, research and development centres, technology companies and innovative start-ups. It is a significant cornerstone of Rwanda’s foundation as an international technology and innovation hub and will contribute to domestic economic growth through progressive tax policies and local content requirements, among many other benefits.

Against this backdrop, Rwanda’s knowledge-based economy is well on its way. Significant investments in ICT infrastructure are already transforming the way that Rwandans do business and are contributing to improved productivity in the economy. Forward-thinking businesses can easily position themselves as part and parcel of an innovative, tech-enabled ecosystem by exploring and deploying emerging technological solutions themselves.

Clearly, technology is evolving at a rapid pace and there is some understandable anxiety about its potential risks. PwC’s annual Global CEO Survey indicates that 69% of CEOs are worried about the speed of tech change and they are struggling to keep pace. Just 20% said they have made significant progress in getting smart about technology and its potential implications for their businesses. This is a remarkable opportunity.

Technology solutions can differentiate your business competitively

Data is a valuable asset, in a technology-enabled business. Its potential remains untapped by many organisations, however, often because although these organisations own their data assets, they have not maximized potential value through insight-generating data architecture.

Technicians standing next to servers

PwC’s 5th Annual Digital IQ Survey of more than 1,100 business and technology executives found that 62% of respondents believe that big data can deliver a competitive advantage. However, 58% agree that moving from data to insight is a major challenge. 

With good data governance and advanced data analytics, organisations can process data into useful information, discover valuable insights and drive smarter and more effective business decisions. Insights from data analytics can help these organisations to anticipate the future, manage risks more effectively and adapt their business offerings based on customer insights.

Artificial Intelligence is another emerging technology that is not only disrupting the future of work but also changing the way we live and what we do. AI is automating tasks that require human cognition, such as fraud detection and maintenance schedules for physical assets. It is augmenting human decision-making in areas like capital project oversight and customer retention strategies. In the near future, AI may not need much human intervention to make highly complex decisions – although risk management will still require ensuring human control of certain sensitive processes.

Robotics, on the other hand, can automate highly repetitive, mundane tasks and contribute to reliable standardization. Human capital can then be deployed for more value-generating activities. The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled an upsurge in robotic process automation, such as when the Government of Rwanda deployed robots in Kigali International Airport to screen passengers rapidly and efficiently upon arrival. Disinfectant robots have been deployed to stop the spread of the virus and other contaminants – reducing the risks for their human counterparts.

The convergence of these and other technologies is helping to unlock the next wave of transformation and competitive advantage. Innovation can impact an organisation’s position as a disruptor, ensuring that it generates and optimizes disruption (rather than the other way around). Forethought and active collaboration with digital strategy consultants and innovative service providers is a powerful combination. Working smarter and better is only half the battle. Success is now defined by active investment and interest in the technologies of tomorrow.

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Mwangi Karanja

Mwangi Karanja

Partner, PwC Rwanda

Tel: +250 (252) 588203/4/5/6

Rebecca Wanyonyi

Rebecca Wanyonyi

Associate, PwC Rwanda

Tel: +250 252 5882 03/04/05/06