from PHYLLIS BIRORI in Kigali, Rwanda
KIGALI – BOASTING a young and tech savvy population, political stability and zero tolerance for corruption as well as dynamic economic growth, Rwanda has positioned itself as a continental leader in innovation and technology.
The East African country, with economic growth of some 7 percent annually, is leading in digitisation and urban development on the back of ambitious plans for smart mobility.
In 2016, Rwanda introduced a bus system with on board WI-FI while bicycle traffic has received active support and pedestrian pavements are currently being built.
International companies are making the most of vast opportunities therein to launch their modern mobility solutions, particularly in the capital Kampala, which is spearheading the smart city agenda.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as well as some key players from the private sector have launched the “Moving Rwanda” concept to soon commence the production of Volkswagen (VW) cars in Kigali, with a shared usage concept as well as with a training initiative for modern professions.
The concept aims at implementing environmentally friendly car sharing models with plans for the utilisation of electric cars as a further future goal.
Germany supports the initiative by establishing a digitisation centre for specialised personnel and knowledge transfer in the capital city, together with Rwandan partners.
Besides its cooperation with Volkswagen the BMZ is also partnering with Siemens, SAP and Inros Lackner to implement the concept.
“We want to provide modern training opportunities for Rwanda’s youth,” said Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister.
He said through the project, the government and private sector were providing local youth with future prospects in their home country, as mechanics for fleet maintenance or as software developers.
Müller noted African cities were facing major challenges with already 500 million people living in the towns. Projections indicate the number will double soon.
This highlights the need for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility concepts, lest cities will drown in traffic jams, air pollution and noise.
Moving Rwanda is anticipated to address this.
“Such modern mobility concepts provide signal effects for all of Africa,” Müller said.
BMZ supports sustainable city transport, with currently more than 1 000 specialised and management personnel being trained and provided advanced vocational training opportunities.
African metropolitan areas including Accra, Addis Ababa, Lagos and Nairobi have been linked up with German experts from the fields of municipalities, the economy and science.
In January, VW South Africa (VWSA) announced an investment of US$20 million for the commencement of the roll out of VW’s integrated automotive mobility solution, a first for the Volkswagen Group.
It paved way for the establishment of Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda.
The first service to be offered will be community car sharing, which will launch in the next quarter.
This will be followed by a ride hailing service with some initial 150 vehicles planned in the medium term still in 2018. In 2019 public car sharing with some initial 250 cars planned will be launched and this will be followed by a shuttle service and lastly a peer to peer car sharing service is envisaged.
Awesomity Lab, a local software development start-up company, has been appointed to develop the mobility App. Volkswagen is also in negotiation with other potential Rwandan suppliers.
The Kigali facility will have an initial annual installed capacity of up to 5 000 cars. The current business plan assumes employment of between 500 and 1000 people.
“We believe in Rwanda and its people,” said Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of VWSA.
“We believe that Rwanda is uniquely positioned to roll out such an integrated mobility solution and make a success of it. This can be the role model for similar solutions for countries in Africa and other continents,” he added.
Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board said the project was in line with Rwanda’s policies to protect the environment, create jobs and reduce its trade deficit.
Rwanda has a population of 12 million, over 53 percent aged between 15 and 64.
“Our country is determined to become the leading innovator in Africa,” Akamanzi said.
– CAJ News