The Rwandan youth who developed Volkswagen’s mobility solution


RDB CEO Clare Akamanzi poses in a group photo with members of Awesomity Lab. Courtesy.

When Volkswagen announced that part of their $20 million investment in Rwanda included rolling out a mobility solution, most would have imagined that they would be bringing an international renowned IT firm with decades of experience.

They did not. Instead, they introduced a team of Rwandan young men working from a small office in Kacyiru, Kigali.

Volkswagen selected a local tech startup, Awesomity Lab to develop a mobility solution platform which could change car ownership and use across the world.

The firm is made up of eight young people in their early 20s, having been started by four of them in 2016.

The four had graduated from the same high school, Lycee de Kigali after which they joined a code club organised by DMM Hehe Ltd ,which was founded by young tech entrepreneur Clarise Iribagiza.

The group of friends then went on to start a firm with no capital and not much in terms of university degrees and credentials.

The team leader who serves as a chief executive, Lionel Mpfizi, told The New Times that, after the fellowship programme, they set out to start their firm.

“The firm was officially founded in January 2016.

‘‘We all went to the same high school (LDK) and after high school we got the privilege to join a code club organised (by the then Hehe labs) DMM Hehe and we graduated from their fellowship programme in 2015,” he said.

With their area of expertise being mobile and web applications they set out to make a name for themselves.

“The only capital we had was our knowledge and the determination. We all shared the same goal of turning Awesomity into something big and that was enough to get us started,” Mpfizi said.

Their big break

The group went on to implement two in-house projects developing solutions in healthcare and education as well as undertaking tasks for clients in Rwanda and across the region.

The tide began to turn in February last year when they were introduced to Volkswagen by the Rwanda Development Board.

Volkswagen’s officials were impressed with their resume and portfolio and invited them to participate in a tendering process competing against multiple international firms.

“Since one of the client projects we’ve worked on is a ride hailing app, we were invited to this meeting along with several other local companies. VW was impressed by our previous work and they later invited us to participate in their tender. It was an extremely long process with multiple international companies involved, but Awesomity had the best offer in terms of both pricing and quality,” Mpfizi says.

Without revealing details about the deal and their earnings from it, the firm says that they are keen on developing platforms that can be relevant across the world.

“This deal means a lot to our company, we are proud to have accomplished something that will help in the development of our country. This deal gave us credibility and visibility at the international level,” he adds.

Among the readjustments they are set to make is expand their team to about 12 people to handle tasks at hand.

The tasks that await the team, according to Thomas Schafer, the Chief Executive of Volkswagen South Africa, include developing solutions that provide for community car sharing, ride hailing and public car sharing among others.

The first service will be community car sharing which will have about 150 vehicles and is set to be launched in the second quarter of 2018.

The second aspect of the mobility solution involves a ride hailing service with about 150 vehicles planned in the medium term to be launched in 2018.

Towards the end of 2018 or early 2019, the VW will also roll out a public car sharing model with about 250 cars, followed by a shuttle service and later a peer to peer car sharing, where car owners can give their cars for use and earn money in the process.