Trials and triumphs in Rwanda’s Silicon Valley

For a country that aims to strike a good balance between technology, business, innovation and boosting future IT leaders in Africa, building and encouraging programmers is one of the best foundations the country can build.
Jean Pierre Habinshuti is one of the programmers at KLab.
Jean Pierre Habinshuti is one of the programmers at KLab.

For a country that aims to strike a good balance between technology, business, innovation and boosting future IT leaders in Africa, building and encouraging programmers is one of the best foundations the country can build.

kLab, a community of technology wizards and entrepreneurs is one of the spaces that is playing an important role in growing and supporting the Rwandan ICT entrepreneurs community. By transiting at kLab, ‘techpreneurs’ are coming up with viable ICT solutions, being able to sell them and earn a living out of it, though it has been a big challenge to some.

Claude Mugisha, manager of kLab says kLab’s primary focus is to build or improve skills.

“Through our different programs of mentorship, capacity building, networking events and inspirational talks, we’ve been helping them to improve their business and technical skills. kLab has been able to liven the ICT and entrepreneurship scene in Rwanda in a period of 7 months,” he said.

The Programmers

Jean Pierre Habinshuti is one of the programmers at KLab and the inventor of the Unified School System, a program that keeps all school results in the same data base, delivers results to parents on their phones and at the same time gives all registered schools a uniform report card that cannot be forged.

According to Habinshuti, ICT in Rwanda hasn’t been given the support it needs. Sometimes programmers design a program and make it run though the response from market and different bodies that could be of help is very low.

“We make programs but for them to be available, they have to be tested by different institutions. But this chance is what we are lacking. For example my program was introduced some months back but it’s not yet in the field because of the same problem,” he said.

Some of the other problems are making programs that have already been made from developed countries and end up having tight competition, due to the limited market of people who are still reluctant to use technology.

Success Stories

Though there have been many hardships up the road, there have been others who have reaped from this ICT hub and Charles Elio can testify to that.

“I’m the creator of “Get It” an app that helps you get access to a restaurant near your location or one with the cuisine you want. Right now this app is up and running though I must confess the road to success wasn’t easy,” he says.

“Of course it needs a lot of persistence and a strong spirit. Sometimes you approach sponsors and they say no but that’s how life is. Move on to the next one and stay positive. Sometimes things get tough but giving up shouldn’t be an option,” he said.

The Banks

Finance is one of the biggest problems faced when a program is close to completion. Maurice Toroitich, Managing Director of KCB Rwanda says KCB would be more than pleased to loan or fund a program as long as its bankable.

“Many times these programmers focus on the technology part and tend to ignore the money making bit. But if there is a program with real potential then there is reason to fund it,” he said.

The General Manager of kLab, Mugisha says kLab community is working on having well structured and high standard in-house trainings to enhance both business and technical skills.

“We plan to have incubation services where tenants will have more support as they attempt to commercialise their products,” Mugisha concluded.

 

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