As a landlocked country with a negative balance of trade, there must be a surplus of containers bringing in goods. In the United States, there is a movement to build cost-effective “tiny houses”, some of which qualify for the upper middle class and luxury markets as well as being highly efficient and low cost in design.
More architects and engineers, using computer-aided design (CAD) are combining these two ideas using shipping containers redesigned as homes which meet all building codes while addressing the aesthetic demands for the United States consumer marketplace.
Rwanda is in the process of developing an innovation hub. At the same time there are efforts underway to develop the ICT area. CAD is a critical application not just in the area of architectural design but in manufacturing, from electronics to food production, clothing and the emerging area of 3D fabrication from small parts to, possibly, drones for Rwanda’s new, emergent, delivery system.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows and manufacturing becomes more custom and produces locally tailoured goods, the idea of focusing on “coding” for computers and the idea of low cost, outsourced, manufacturing both start to diminish in importance.
The critical point here is that an idea as simple as the use of CAD to recycle underutilised resources, such as shipping containers, challenges not just imagination and innovation and conventional development models but also rules and regulations built into such areas as building codes that are calcified in the regulatory framework and create barriers to opportunities. These barriers are seen not just in Rwanda but also in other countries such as the United States.
As Rwanda pushes to innovate and encourage entrepreneurs, it needs to seek new ways to more efficiently allow its bureaucratic structures to also evolve at the same time.
It may be time for Rwanda to look at its legacy administrative framework, rules and regulations to see how that too needs to break through bureaucratic structures that may have to be less reactive and more forward looking at the same time that the country seeks to encourage innovation in its education and economic development programmes.
Dr. Tom Abeles