What you should know about ‘Connect Rwanda’ campaign

Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire (right), speaks during the news conference as MTN chief executive Mitwa Kaemba Ng’ambi looks on in Kigali yesterday. Photo: Craish Bahizi.

At least 24,012 smartphones meant for vulnerable households have been pledged since the Connect Rwanda campaign kicked off last weekend, according to available data.

This means that at least 8,000 smartphones were pledged, every day, since last Friday when the MTN Rwanda CEO, Mitwa Kaemba Ng’ambi, committed 1,100 phones to vulnerable families.


If this pace is maintained, some 360,000 smartphones will be pledged in 45 days, equivalent to the number of smartphones that Rwandans purchase in an entire year, according to the Minister of ICT and Innovation Paula Ingabire.


On Saturday, President Kagame has also pledged1500 phones. Various institutions and individuals have since joined the challenge.


The move is expected to drive Rwanda’s smartphone penetration, which is currently below 20 per cent, and bridge the country’s digital divide, particularly in rural Rwanda.

Rwanda looks to technology and innovation to achieve its aspirations of becoming a knowledge-based economy by 2035.

At a press conference on Monday, officials explained the details of the campaign.  Below are some of the things that you might want to know about the campaign and the challenge.

Who is in charge of the initiative?

The challenge is championed by MTN Rwanda, run in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation. Other telecom operators have also been invited to join the campaign.

In addition to collect all the pledges, MTN Rwanda also committed to connecting all the handsets with  SIM cards loaded with 1GB of data per month for the first three months.

MTN and the Ministry of ICT and Innovation will work with local leaders to identify the vulnerable households to give the gadgets to.

Who is eligible for these smartphones?

The campaign targets vulnerable households. The first round of distribution will cater for households without a cellphone at all.

Once that is done, those with feature phones will also be served. The campaign aims to ensure that each household in the country owns at least a smartphone by the end of 2020. There are 2.88 million households in the country, according to official figures.

Only Made-in-Rwanda smartphones can be pledged?

Absolutely not. However, the Minister of ICT says that pledging Made-in-Rwanda phones are a double win – increases digital penetration and promotes made-in-Rwanda products.

Who should pledge?

Everyone and anyone willing.

In his remarks at the RPF Congress, President Kagame said that the commitment is voluntary.

“Nobody is forced to pledge, only those willing to will contribute. All we want is, in our capabilities, to provide smartphones to people who otherwise would take 10 years to afford them,” President Kagame said.

Most vulnerable households are in rural areas, where literacy levels are low. Will they really adapt to the “complex” features of smartphones?  

One of the extra services that will come with these phones is training to the beneficiaries. The Ministry of ICT has already trained digital ambassadors –community members who help in boosting digital literacy. They will train the beneficiaries.

How does the government and telecom operators plan to deal with the challenges of internet coverage in remote areas?

There are currently plans to increase internet coverage and upgrade internet signal in the country.

Current figures also demonstrate the need for increasing smartphone penetration.

Currently, on average 2G and 3G geographical coverage is at 90 per cent while the population coverage is 92.6 per cent.

The 4G internet covers 95.2 per cent of the geography and reaches 97.2 per cent of the population.

Internet penetration is at 58.3 per cent with only 16 per cent using 3G and 4G.

Over 80 per cent of the population access public services through the online platform, Irembo.

A recent report by RURA shows that mobile phone penetration was at 78.8 per cent with 9.5 million active subscribers.

Beyond calls and text messaging, telephones in Rwanda are used for money transfer, content streaming, advert and connectivity and internet surfing among other purposes.

According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the increase of ownership of mobile phones has a coloration with the increase in economic growth.

And finally, how can one contribute?

Pledges can be done through different platforms:

One can share their pledge on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectRwanda. You can throw the challenge to someone else to pledge as well.

One can also pledge through WhatsApp or SMS by sending a video or text message on 0788310044.

In addition, pledges can also be made through mobile money services and bank transfer. Send a pledge through MoMo pay by dialling *182*8*1*100100# from your MTN number and then press send.

Cash pledges from abroad or within the country can be done through the following bank details:

Bank Name: Equity Bank

Bank Address: Grand Pension Plaza, 1st Floor, KN 4 AVE, Kigali, Rwanda

Account Name: Connect Rwanda

Account Number: 4001200636282(RWF) or 40012006636310(USD)



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