Herve Rutagengwa is a 30-year-old Rwandan ICT entrepreneur. The enterprising young man scooped the top ICT firm award at the recent Made-in-Rwanda expo. Rutagengwa also won the national Best Young Entrepreneur Award in 2012.
The budding entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Medmasoft Technology Corporation, an information and communication technology (ICT) firm. Established in 2009, Medmasoft is engaged in IT and software development. Rutagengwa says he was inspired to join software development by the need to support communities develop solutions for challenges they face using ICT tools.
“We have so far developed various software and mobile applications, including ‘Ikigega Market’ which manages small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), ‘Bingana Exchange’ that regulates forex bureaus, and ‘Ireme Smart School’, an application which facilitates school management operations including library management, payroll, financial accounting, information storage, fees management, inventory,” he says. He says apps like ‘B2B Cooperatives’ and ‘InkaTrack’ are currently being used in animal husbandry management by some livestock farmers in the country.
Rutagengwa says the growth of the local and regional ICT sector, and particularly software development, is lack of collaboration.
He argues that, with no collaboration and partnerships with different people and firms, Made-in-Rwanda products will not go far.
“We do not work together as industry players to harness what we have, with everyone choosing to do things individually even in areas they do not have enough expertise,” he notes.
He says the problem that is common on the whole continent has inhibited growth of Rwandan and African brands and products in general.
“It will take a lot of time and money to export the majority of Made-in-Rwanda products without public-private partnerships. Therefore, we need to work together to take our products to the next level to be make better goods and at competitive prices,” he notes.
Rutagengwa advises enterprising Rwandans, especially the young people, to always partner with trusted individuals who can help them develop ideas into viable businesses. He adds that one of the missing links is idea conception and implementation, saying most great business ideas ‘die’ due to lack of capital to bring them to life.
Fruits of networking
The young entrepreneur notes that attending conferences and product exhibitions across the world has helped to grow and gain more skills and useful contacts. He points out that he is now focused on showcasing the firm’s ICT products on the local market as part of their efforts to support the Made-in-Rwanda initiative.
“I’ve travelled across the continent and the rest of the world, where I have exhibited some of my products…the products attracted a lot of interest among a cross-section of key industry players. This has proved that Rwandans have potential that needs to be supported and developed to reach the next level where we will be more competitive,” he says.
Rutagengwa has participated in events like the EU-Africa Business Forum, US-Africa Business Summit that took place recently in Ethiopia, Transform Africa Summit, and the Growing SMEs conference, among others.
He says during the Ethiopia event, he clinched a deal with the Chamber of Commerce and Trade Association of the Amhara region. Under the agreement, Medmasoft will work with over 2,000 companies from the Amhara region to find innovative ICT solutions for members. The young Rwandan was also invited by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Abuja (ACCI), Nigerian, where he will partner with traders to develop ICT tools to help them reduce losses and increase performance. Rutagengwa says he will use these opportunities to showcase Rwanda’s potential on the continent and beyond.
He adds that these are some of the many foreign industry stakeholders that have shown interest in local products.
“With our software and mobile applications, we will be able to help such groups and companies improve their services and operations,” he said.
Rutagengwa says he was surprised that he was the only ICT company at the Ethiopia event that attracted 60 top ICT firms from across the world to exhibit their products.
“Though we paid $4,000 (Rwf3.2 million), it was worth it given the networking experience and opportunities that the event presented,” he says.
He says such international conferences and exhibitions are essential as they gain skills, and understand what people from different countries want, and what they can supply them.
About buy Made-in-Rwanda campaign
The buy Made-in-Rwanda (Twigire) campaign is one component of the strategies developed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to boost the domestic market. The campaign launched in 2014 seeks to boost consumption of locally-made products through deliberate awareness drives, enhancing quality standards, branding and packaging along the value chain, according to Francois Kanimba, the Minister for Trade and Industry.
Minister Kanimba said the drive is targeting to change the mind-set of Rwandans towards consuming locally-made products, but also to boost value addition along the value chain of production.
“We are also targeting producers, especially the small-and-medium enterprises, in terms of technology and innovation.
We are confident this will boost productivity and help narrow the country’s deficit gap,” the Minister is quoted as saying.
Rwanda currently has a significant trade deficit, which for years has been in the range of 15 per cent of the total gross domestic product.
The buy Made-in-Rwanda campaign is therefore one of the efforts geared at boosting Rwanda’s balance of payments situation, as well as helping make local products competitive both locally and on the regional and global markets.