Professor Romain Murenzi, the Minister in the Office of the President in Charge of Science and Technology calculates that mobile phone subscribers in Rwanda will hit the 5 million mark by 2012. The number currently lies at 600 000.
“We will be the first country in Africa to reach 50 percent of the population being mobile subscribers and 100 percent of eligible users (over 16 years),” he said.
The Minister based his projection from growth in mobile phone subscription. MTN Rwandacell targets 1million subscribers this year from the current 600,000 and while Rwandatel which is also soon starting mobile phone services expects 600,000 subscribers.
“In the next three years, MTN and Rwandatel targets to reach 2million and with a 3rd mobile operator expected next year, 5 million mobile subscribers are viable,” Murenzi yesterday said in a telephone interview.
Progress has already been made by the Rwandan government in infrastructure development. The minister added that fibre optic cables had been laid and it is hoped they will fill the gaps in backbone networks. This will also improve rural connectivity.
“Since charity begins at home, Rwanda itself is pressing on with projects to help its citizens get high-quality, affordable access to voice, data and video,” said Murenzi.
He however hastened to add that Rwanda can’t do business in Africa today in terms of transmission of data, because it is too expensive, and video is an even bigger challenge.
He announced that President Paul Kagame who is also the patron of the Connect Africa Summit, would champion the development of ICT in Africa.
The Minister has just returned from attending the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in Cairo, Egypt.
The meeting aimed at bringing in members of the ICT community both in Africa and around the world to identify the areas of opportunities, challenges and to share effective responses.
It was attended by many heads of international companies and Government Ministers along with key regulators and investment bodies.
Some 200 companies from 45 countries, including several from outside the African region, exhibited products, applications and services.
The exhibition was designed to underscore the latest developments in the ICT market, with sessions offering both regional and global insights on Africa’s position in the ICT sector, its unique market drivers, and the host of factors critical in sustaining its most effective enabling environment.
Mr. Reza Jafari, Chairman of the ITU TELECOM Board of Directors commented that many people have the misconception that there is no money to be made in Africa.
“I believe if there is a new business model, ICT services can be provided at low cost and this would help expand the industry even further,” he said.