Rwanda has entered an agreement with Africa50, a pan-African infrastructure investment platform under which the latter will help develop and finance the country’s ambitious Kigali Innovation City (KIC) project.
This was announced on the sidelines of the ongoing Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa this week.
The deal was signed by the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Uzziel Ndagijimana, and the Africa50 Chief Executive Officer, Alain Ebobissé,
Under the arrangement, Africa50 will develop and finance a “Digital Innovation Precinct”, including commercial and retail complexes, as part of Kigali Innovation City, according to a statement from Africa50.
A similar digital innovation precinct exists in Braamfontein, a central suburb of Johannesburg, where the incubation of start-ups, the commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youths take place.
Under the terms of the agreement whose value was not disclosed, Africa50 was named co-sponsor and partner of the project.
It will apply its project development, financial structuring, and infrastructure development expertise, working alongside the Rwanda Development Board and other partners during the development phase.
According to the statement, Africa50 will also help select additional partners, including other development finance institutions and private sector lenders, for the construction.
Located in Kigali’s Special Economic Zone in Gasabo District, KIC is a flagship project valued at about $2 billion.
It is set to accommodate world-class universities, technology companies, biotech firms, and commercial and retail real estate on 70 hectares of land.
Some of the varsities that have started to setting up campuses in the area or are in the process to do so include Carnegie Mellon University, African Institute of Mathematyiocal Sciences, and African Leadership University. Each of these are already operating in Rwanda.
A key component of the Government’s Vision 2020 agenda, KIC aims to attract technology companies from all over the world to Rwanda to create an innovation ecosystem and further a knowledge-based economy.
The project is expected to create over 50,000 jobs and generate some $150 million in ICT exports annually, as well as attract over $300 million in foreign direct investment.
Over 2,600 students are expected to graduate annually from its universities over 30 years, adding to Rwanda and Africa’s pool of tech-savvy entrepreneurs.
Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, who is also in South Africa for the continental investment forum, said Kigali Innovation City will serve as an Africa-focused innovation hub and a holistic ecosystem of technology clusters.
“This innovative effort is the first of its kind in the continent. It will have pan-African development impact, both in terms of economic and human capital,” he is quoted in the statement as saying.
The premier added that the full success of the project requires concerted efforts to mobilise more private investors.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in South Africa, Africa50’s Ebobissé said the project “has significant socio-economic impact and aligns well with our vision of promoting innovation and ICT development in Africa”.
“KIC is an example of how we can partner with one of our shareholder governments to provide project development expertise leveraging their outstanding track record in doing business to mobilise capital for a farsighted, innovative project of global reach,” he added.