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Rwanda: UAE Firm to Invest U.S.$50 Million in Kigali ‘Smart City’ Initiative

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A United Arab Emirates based firm, Cheikh Rakadh Group, has committed to invest $50 million (about Rwf41 billion) in the recently launched Rwanda Smart City Master Plan. The agreement, signed during the just-concluded Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, aims at financing the implementation of the Kigali Smart City MasterPlan.

The UAE firm has interests in oil and gas, aviation, human resource, venture capital, among others. Speaking to The New Times on the sidelines of the summit, Youth and ICT minister Jean-Philbert Nsengimana said the agreement also involves City of Kigali authorities and Ngali Holdings. The involvement of Ngali Holdings, he said, is an attempt to create opportunities for the local private sector.

“The idea is to implement selected projects. We will look at the entire master plan and identify projects where they can bring in technology. They are partners of Nokia which is one of the leading firms in technology,” Nsengimana said. The commitment will see the firm identify viable projects within the master plan and bring in technology expertise.

The memorandum of understanding makes room to evaluate viable business models, and costing prior to implementation. “We will also look at viable business models. Beginning next week [this week], we will identify viable business models, feasibility, costing, among others,” Nsengimana said.

During the summit, the Government also entered into an agreement with Inmarsat, a global mobile satellite communications firm, to launch a series of digital service initiatives across Kigali. Rwanda also signed a deal with Niger for cooperation in the ICT sector. The summit brought together more than 4,000 delegates from 80 countries. The summit adopted a smart cities master plan, which will act as the guiding tool in the development of smart cities in the continent.

Also during the summit, venture capitalists made investment commitment of about $40,000 in five local startups. Two more countries joined the Smart Africa Alliance bringing the members states to 22. Sao Tome and Tunisia announced their membership while Nigeria and Zambia are set to join in coming days.

Among the topics that featured prominently was the possibility of having a One Are Network that spans across the entire continent. With a number of countries in East and West Africa having the One Area Network, delegates explored the possibility of expanding it across the continent to reduce costs of communication. During the summit, participants expressed concerns that the adoption of ICT and technology was creating divides in some aspects rather than bridge them. This is in areas such as gender and rural and urban population.

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