The Information, Communication and Technology sector is likely to lead the list of the top attractive investment sectors in the country if current trends are maintained, investors and experts predict.
The sector which was previously credited for its role in boosting the national business environment and improving convenience, also habours numerous investment opportunities.
Current and potential investors say that the government’s role in developing the sector has further boosted the sector’s investment profile.
In April this year, the 2015 World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology report commended the government’s contribution to ICT promotion noting that there had been public investments in infrastructure development such as fibre networks for the private enterprises to tap into.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Youth and ICT, as of end of 2014, the sector was responsible for about 45 per cent of total foreign direct investments in the country.
Alexandre Mars, a renowned global entrepreneur in the tech industry who has started, developed and sold successful companies in Europe and United States, said recently that a large population of the youth keen on ICT was a positive addition to the sector’s investment profile.
“It is a nascent industry here which is interesting to see more and more incubation hubs. The time is right as there is a general increase in students who want to eventually become entrepreneurs in the sector,” Mars said.
Investors willing to tap into this sector, he said can come in as venture capitalists to financially back solutions developed by techies.
“There is already an ecosystem, what is needed is money. It could be through venture capitalists who see the value of investing here because financing is the next big step,” said the entrepreneur who was in Rwanda on a philanthropic mission.
To develop skills in ICT, the government invited Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University to establish a campus as well as build an incubation hub, K-lab for budding solution developers and entrepreneurs.
Multinationals in the country
Liquid Telecom, a multinational in the telecoms industry with presence in 11 African countries and the United Kingdom, is one of the international firms scaling up their ICT investments in the country.
The firm which entered the Rwandan Market in 2013 after taking over Rwandatel, is currently in the process of rolling out fibre optic cables to over 8000 homes in Kigali with an investment of over US$30 million.
Nic Rudnick the group’s Chief Executive Officer says that Rwanda being part of a regional economy increases its attractiveness as an ICT hub and investment destination.
“Rwanda has a huge geographical advantage in that it is landlocked, from a telecommunications point of view.
This makes it the ideal place to set up a hub for the region. All of Rwanda’s neighbours are connected by fibre, all enterprises in the region in the technology world will require to be based in Rwanda as it will enable them work efficiently,” Rudnick said.
Among the areas of investment to look out for in the coming days, he said, were opportunities in digital services emerging as the country continues to build a network and the growing demand to interlink enterprises in the region.
Other than building necessary infrastructure, the government has also been open to public private partnerships for investments which have further boosted investor confidence in the sector.
Olleh Rwanda Networks which is probably the biggest investor in the sector at the moment began with an injection of about $140 million for 4G LTE roll-out under such partnership.
The firm made its debut in the Rwandan Market in October 2014.
Patrick Yoon, the firm’s Chief Executive, said there was no better timing to invest in the sector following the ecosystem set up by the government.
He said for ICT investors looking to penetrate the East African Region, Rwanda offers a good entry point as technologies and solutions developed locally can be exported regionally as demand grows.
“In terms of ICT rollout, Rwanda is ahead of most countries in the region which will give it competitive advantage when exporting technologies and solutions to other countries in the region,” Yoon said.
A section of Rwandan entrepreneurs have already begun exporting technology in electronic government service delivery portals to countries like Uganda and South Sudan.
Patrick Buchana, a local ICT entrepreneur, said among the areas that investors can look out for in the coming days include cashless payment systems, online service delivery and cyber security systems.