Pacifique Hallellua heads the core team at kLab, an open technology and innovation hub where students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs and innovators converge to work on ideas and projects to turn them into viable business models.
Part of his brief involves helping out in the day to day running of the facility, and taking visitors around. Moses Opobo had a chat with him …
Briefly, what is kLab?
It stands for knowledge hub. It is a brainchild of the ICT chamber which, working with the Government of Rwanda, was able to bring other stakeholders on board. These other stakeholders are the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), and GIZ, formerly GTZ. The space that we occupy, the whole sixth floor of the Telecom House, is a donation from the Government, while the equipment came from JICA and GIZ.
Before kLab was opened, everyone was working alone and people seemed to be scattered. People from abroad and locals didn’t have any space from which to work. We had technology graduates from KIST and Tumba College of technology, but they did not have a place where they could meet and collaborate and show each other what they were working on. They had this burning desire of founding a place where they could meet to form this community.
We are open seven days a week, from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm Mondays to Saturdays, and Sundays from 9:00am to 9:00 pm. On a typical day we get in about 70 to 100 people. The majority are young people in their early to late 20s, most of whom are either fresh graduates or still at university.
What kind of background does one need to come here?
About three years ago, kLab was mainly focusing on people who had a programming background like software developers and programmers, but now it’s open to anyone who feels that they are an innovator. Even people who do not have an IT background are really welcome to K-Lab. Say you’re a fashion designer or you have a shop and are selling some products, you will still need some IT tools to use.
At kLab we have a network of people through which we help one another, because you can’t innovate alone. You need to meet different kinds of people, see what they are working on, and share ideas.
How did you end up here?
After university a friend recommended this place to me because I had a very good business background not only by education but also experience.
He made the recommendation based on the way he knew me from a couple of years back. He told me it’s an interactive place where I could go and meet with lots of people and share ideas. I came together with some of my friends and met the former General Manager who explained everything about K-Lab and I felt interested so I kept coming around. I would go out and meet people, and try to link them to the developers at K-lab. For instance if I found a company that develops websites I would recommend good people I know from here for the job.
My interest in this place just kept growing and eventually, based on how I was engaging people, I was appointed to be a part of the core team, and help the General Manager in running the day to day activities of K-Lab.
What does one need to become a member of kLab?
To become a part of kLab, you apply through our website, where you will be asked a few questions, then wait for approval. It doesn’t happen instantly though. You need to be coming here often to engage with the K-Lab community.
What are a few challenges faced by the kLab community?
One of the major challenges developers face is the timing in the market. Sometimes people have good projects around here, especially tech-based projects, but find that the market has not yet grasped them. We have a relatively small market, which poses a challenge when you want to become a part of the global tech community.
Business acumen is also a big challenge still, where you find someone who is technically competent, but can’t find someone to handle the business aspect. Another challenge is that of big companies that come and grab some of the talented people here and they disappear, sometimes to other countries.