Learning from the Startup Nation “Israel”

With the title that went “Can innovation really help our cities?” the #kLabTalks event that was held recently, unfolded mentioning the role innovation plays into the development of smart cities, as the talk went on however other critical aspects that goes with smart cities were touched on; citing mainly the involvement of data and information which leads finally to CyberSecurity issues. Having one of the great minds you would ever meet explaining his point of view on the matter; Rafi Rich and being hosted by a tech startup community we ended up talking more and wider than you would expect, we will not touch on every point mentioned during the #kLabTalks which by the way you can watch later on Youtube, but 4 points made it clear on the mindset startups should have:

1. Don’t be afraid to fail: Asked if the success of startups in Israel has any relationship with the fact that most of Israelis at least 80% have to server at least 3 years in the army, you would expect that the response would be kind of; discipline or perseverance but none of this is the case; instead the art of learning from the mistakes and room for improvement was key. Elaborating on this, he gave an example of how if a soldier crashes a Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 (aircraft) that costs around $100 M, the person would return, get together with others, explain what happened to others, learn from the mistakes, learn how it should be avoided in the future and finally move on, not the other way of imprisonment and severe sanction of having burnt $100 M in minutes. This gives the clear and net picture of why people are not afraid of trying in the startup nation.

2. Don’t do it the “Yekke” way:
 Mentioning this, Rafi highlighted how as the German saying goes “The devils are in the details” should not be the way of a startup, he then elaborated on the “German way” how you would first sit, list everything in detail, plan on how everything will go, how much you will need for every aspect alongside the process and so on… However only big companies like CISCO or IBM have the resources, time and people to do that, startups don’t have that and therefore should improvise and start working on whichever product they have and if they fail, they should learn from point 1, and the cycle goes on and on.

3. Should start small but can be scaled: 
When big companies like Microsoft or Oracle are developing solutions, they target the global market which is a challenge because there is no way the whole world would have one same problem to be addressed by that same solution, which is why most of the solutions are tried to fit a specific problem and at the end fails because it wasn’t solely developed for that particular problem, hence solutions should be developed for specific problems and this is even clearer when you take the example of Online payment versus Mpesa.

4. You should live the problem you are trying to solve: 
Starting stating that a startup should never be a one person team, the main point isn’t however the technology that will be needed in the development of the solution rather the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. He stressed out that if the not the people who are living the problem the ones trying to solve that, any one else should take the time to live that problem, as the famous quote from Albert Einstein goes “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Please join us on Social media for more detailed and deep discussions, and hope this was a good read that will influence the way you will do things in future.


Building a gaming sector in Rwanda

Building a diversified economy is no small feat. Economic diversification is the result of a vision that believes that various economic sectors and clusters can be designed, launched and maintained which attract international investment in order to nurture a home-grown industry.

In today’s world, having a diversified economy is the result of the right mix between manufacturing and service-based industries with the latter being based on laws, regulations and incentives.

Mindful of this, we read with interest the idea of Rwanda to develop the online gaming sector through a new regulatory framework. This is definitely something we believe in its potential after having seen this sector develop from a concept to become the second most important economic pillar in Malta.

The foresight and determination of the Maltese authorities to develop the iGaming industry, together with the Malta Gaming Authority’s (MGA) proactive approach to the inevitable changes in the sector, have created a stable and attractive regulatory environment for this sector to flourish. In 2004, Malta became the first EU Member State to enact comprehensive legislation on remote gaming, and industry stakeholders consider Malta as one of the foremost tried and tested jurisdictions in the world.

Today the accounts contributed to close to 13% of GDP and employed close to 15,000people with the large majority being non-Maltese. This in turn has supported the property market, retail and other key economic sectors.

However, building such an economic sector is not only dependent on having a strong and attractive regulatory system. It depends mainly on creating the right conditions for an ecosystem to develop.

This includes having the right banking and financing institutions, the access to quality talent, responsive educational institutions that design courses that are required by the industry itself. This was further reinforced by the fact that additional and complementary businesses started being set-up in Malta including animation studies, video game design, translation agencies, specialised marketing agencies and a thriving event-based industry that services the gaming companies.

As a result, we believe that Rwanda can play a key role in the development of this fast-growing industry which many believe has a lot of potential to flourish in Africa. With the right regulation and incentives, Rwanda can truly develop in Africa’s capital of online gaming just as Malta has become the European capital. In developing this sector, and other sectors, tax can play a key role.

In one of our 2020 articles we had mentioned that fiscal policy involves a balancing act between, on the one hand, ensuring it results in raising the required revenue for infrastructure and other projects, and on the other, ensuring that it is also used to attract foreign direct investment by making the country competitive when compared to other jurisdictions both from corporate tax perspective and other direct and indirect taxes, whilst at the same time following OECD recommendations on tax policy.

This is also true when developing a new economic cluster such as the gaming industry. The country’s fiscal policy needs to be competitive enough to attract the big players and must also be able to attract the right talent and knowledge to be able to develop the industry.

Tax residence programmes, with beneficial income tax rates, may be developed for the recruitment of individuals within certain positions with companies within the gaming industry, amongst others. A start up visa, with fiscal benefits for both the individuals obtaining such a visa and also the start-up itself may also be seen as another way of attracting talent. Grants, tax credits and other forms of similar incentives may be launched for this purpose.

Being able to attract the right talent to the country will ensure both the immediate success of the industry, by bringing on board people with the necessary experience, whilst at the same time ensuring that such knowledge is transferred to ensure the long-term success.

Naturally, having the right fiscal policy alone will not be enough to be able to attract and maintain investment and talent, the right ingredients need to be implemented to provide a complete, business-friendly ecosystem. The success of this industry will also result in the indirect development of other industries, with a snowball effect on the country’s growth prospects.


EU, Rwanda government partnership targets Rwanda entrepreneurs with digital hubs

Over 1,000 young entrepreneurs in Rwanda are set to benefit from employment-readiness skills and accelerator programmes offered in the new incubation hubs “HANGA Hubs”.

The European Union and Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning recently signed a grant contract to support and increase digital based employment opportunities in high potential economic sectors through these hubs.

This is financed from the EU’s programme to support private sector development and job creation in Rwanda adopted in 2020.

HANGA Hubs will provide space and support for young labour market entrants and start-ups to adopt innovative technologies to enhance productivity, competitiveness, and growth.

“Start-ups can significantly transform and strengthen the economy. They may be small, but they are dynamic, flexible and able to react to market demands. Going by its meaning, HANGA or “Create” hubs will be the home for creative, innovating start-ups, where aspiring young entrepreneurs will find support and help of other entrepreneurs, role models, mentors and fellowships along their journey. saidAmbassador Nicola Bellomo, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Rwanda.

The HANGA hubs project will be implemented by the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) in close collaboration with ICT Chamber and several other players in the ecosystem. This project will address gaps in Rwanda’s innovation ecosystem limiting the pipeline of start-ups and innovations, namely lack of tech-entrepreneurship support and access to services for tech-based innovative start-ups.

“This intervention is timely and aligns well with our Government efforts to strengthen and expand the tech-enabled innovation ecosystem in Rwanda. This initiative seeks to ensure that opportunities for tech-innovation and start-up incubation are made easy and equally accessible for all young innovators regardless of where they are located in the country.The project will target potential entrepreneurs with constructive ideas and solutions in key sectors of the economy such as health, agriculture, financial services, tourism and hospitality, construction, education, and many others. ”Said Honorable Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation.

Hanga Hubs Project is expected to support over 768 young Innovators to undergo a 9-month incubation program, which will result into creation of 192 start-ups.

Support services that would be offered to innovators in the 4 HANGA Hubs will range from business support; market and customer validation support ; B2B matching; networking and exposure trips to allow incubated start-ups  to  attain an early growth stage that could trigger investment.


Rwandan ICT sector expands by 29% in 2020

The Information and Communication Technology grew by 29 per cent in 2020, the latest figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) show.

The statistics show that the ICT sector was one of the few sectors that registered a positive trend in the past year, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gross Domestic Product at current market prices of ICT activities was estimated to be Rwf208bn compared to Rwf186bn in the previous year.

For instance, one of Rwanda’s telecommunication firms, MTN Rwanda, is expecting 20 per cent (year on year) growth in revenue driven by demand in services in 2020.

Other ICT services that were in demand during the course of last year were internet services, gadgets, software and programmes among others.

Overall, Rwanda’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 3.4 per cent in 2020 the figures showed.

GDP is the total monetary value of goods and services produced within an economy over a specific period.

Prior projections by the government and the International Monetary Fund indicated that the Rwandan economy would contract by 0.2 per cent owing to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An economic contraction means a decline in national output measured by the value-added and created through the production of goods and services in the country during a certain period.

The economic turmoil of 2020 was reflected in the GDP statistics across the year where only Quarter 1 had growth of 3.7 per cent growth while quarter 2 contracted by 12.4 per cent, Quarter 3 contracted by 3.6 per cent and the last quarter contracted by 0.6 per cent.

According to NSIR, the agriculture sector grew by 1 per cent, while the Health Sector grew 16 per cent respectively.

Health sector growth was largely driven by demand for medical services in response to the pandemic.

The Industry sector contracted by 4 per cent while services contracted by 6 per cent largely due to lockdowns, limited spending as well as travel restrictions.

As a result of measures set up to curb the pandemic, most affected sectors were Hotels and Restaurants contracting by 40 per cent while education contracted by 28 per cent.

GDP Per Capita in 2020, was estimated at $816 down from $836 in the previous year of 2019.

During their latest mission in the country, the International Monetary Fund noted that economic activity has started to show signs of recovery with the continued monetary and financial measures and large fiscal packages deployed expected to play an important role supporting the economy.

The financial and banking system was found to be stable, liquid and well capitalized to foster economic recovery.

With the ongoing countrywide vaccination, lifting of some Covid-19 restrictions such as working hours and easier countrywide movement, economic activity is expected to increase in coming months.

The country is also set to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled for June 21 this year further increasing economic activity.


How Rwanda Plans to Eliminate HFCs Under Montreal Protocol

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was signed in Kigali in 2016 where signatories successfully  penned the historic agreement that sought to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century.

After the recent amendment of the Protocol to phase down production and use of Hydro-fluoro-carbons (HFCs) which trap heat that contributes to global warming, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) says it has embarked on shifting from using equipment that use HFCs to environmentally friendly natural gas. 

How do you tell the difference?

All refrigerators and air-conditioning equipment use gas to function. 

Most old and commonly used refrigerants made in the 1980 contain CFC and HFCs such as R-12, R-134A, R-410A as they all contain chlorine which is harmful to the environment and CFCs specifically cause global warming and ozone layer depletion.  

With new tech in the 2000’s the most environment-friendly refrigerants that are available on market currently are “R-290 (propane)” and “R-600A (Isobutane)”for refrigerators and R-32 for ACs, they are commonly known as Hydrocarbons (HC).

This means that if you want to buy energy efficient equipment that uses environmentally friendly refrigerant gas, go for an Air Conditioner with R-290 or R-32 or a Refrigerator with R-600a or R-290.

How far has Rwanda gone? 

The domestic refrigerating appliance and room air conditioner market and feasibility assessment by Rwanda Cooling Finance Initiative (RCOOL FI) indicates that there has been a steady increase in refrigerators in the residential sector since 2012 with an estimated stock of 97,512 refrigerators owned by households in Rwanda as of 2020.

Out of these 64,000 are old fashioned and use CFCs and HFCs which pollute the atmosphere and use electricity worth Rwf4billion per year, yet the new equipment can save up to 50% of the power according to REMA studies.

In pushing this agenda Rwanda has started restricting imports of air pollutant gases used by fridges and air conditioners in the country to encourage the adoption of non-polluting cooling technologies.

Peter Claver Sebatesi, a proprietor of Yoli Butchery in Kigali says that the shift has reduced the amount of electricity from Rwf5, 000 to Rwf3, 000 per day contributing to the government agenda but also improving way of doing business 

“This is cost effective and we didn’t know about it but as business people, this works more to our benefits though it’s for a wide objective towards reducing dangerous gas emission into our own atmosphere,” Sebatesi said.

Jean Baptiste Shemeza, a house ware dealer at Marine Supermarket in Kigali says that there is still lack of awareness among buyers on equipment and gas which is suitable in reducing gas emissions and asked that the government embarks on educating household users.

Martine Uwera, the National Focal Point of Montreal Protocol, recently told KTRadio that Rwanda has reduced the importation of chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) from 4.1 tonnes in 2010 to 1.89 tonnes currently; however more work will depend or is banked on dealers. 

Challenges Ahead 

Divine Uwitije, an electronics dealer at HotPoint said that the shift in importing environmental friendly appliances has been easy from the dealer’s side as they understand the value of importing equipment that uses accepted non-pollutant gas.

However, some users say the affordability of modern fridges and air conditioners is a limitation.

“The only limitation that I see here is the need for the prices to be affordable on the local market, otherwise most people in the country know the importance of protecting the environment,” says Justine Mugabo, a student at University of Rwanda. 

Uwera says that “This concern is legitimate but calculating the expenses incurred on the old and new tech refrigerators, it is way too expensive to retain the old equipment”

She said that with the new technology, Rwanda has managed to save 30- 50% of the electricity spent a month on old equipment emitting HFC gases, meaning the country is currently on the right track in implementing the Montreal Protocol.


E-Commerce website to boost access of products to UAE and global market

Rwandan and East African products are set to gain extended access to UAE and global markets following the first launch in Rwanda of Dubuy.com, an e-commerce platform.  

The e-commerce platform will bring Rwandan products to the UAE, the Gulf Region and the global markets in general and will help enterprises from around the world invest in Rwanda.

As of the launch on Wednesday 3 March 2021, over 15 Rwandan companies and many more in UAE are registered on the platform.  “I encourage more Rwandan companies to onboard and display their products.

We are honored that Rwanda is the first country of launch for Dubuy.com in the region. E-commerce platforms like this are needed now more than ever before as we respond to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rwanda’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates H.E Emmanuel Hategeka said at the virtual launch.

The digital platform presents more advantages and can reduce the cost of trade. “This platform is a great addition to Rwanda’s local and regional trade activities.  As a country promoting manufacturing of products for export, we believe it will help us quicken the process of connecting buyers and sellers. We also hope that through the platform, we will be able to reduce on the overall cost of trade,” observed Zephanie Niyonkuru, Deputy CEO of Rwanda Development Board.

rade enabler DP World has already its Kigali Logistics Platform and considers Rwanda as a gateway to the regional market. “We have robust infrastructure to support logistics in Rwanda and we are committed to reducing the cost of logistics, enabling Rwanda to become a regional logistics hub,” noted Sumeet Bhardwaj, CEO of DP World Kigali.

The launch of Duby.com comes after RDB and DP World signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December, 2020 to launch the new global B2B and B2C e-commerce platform