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Major investment will help Rwanda become an African tech destination

Co-Creation Hub plans to invest US$11 million (nearly Rwf10 billion) into a design lab in Rwanda. The new design lab will ultimately bring efficiency in different sectors, including healthcare, education and governance.

The Nigeria-based Co-Creation Hub (Cc-HUB) describes itself as “an innovation centre dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity”. Its hub in Lagos was that country’s “first open living lab and pre-incubation space that catalyses creative social tech ventures”.

Cc-HUB has stated that its decision to launch in Rwanda was based on the country’s progress, particularly the ability to build systems that enable innovation and creativity.

Bosun Tijani, Cc-HUB co-founder and chief executive, told the Rwandan newspaper New Times, “We are not here [in Rwanda] because we think there is a lot of money to make but because we believe there is something about this country that allows creativity and can inspire change across Africa.”

“The design lab is about bringing design into the way public agencies and large corporations think about the implementation and use of technology to solve significant problems in society,” he added.

The lab is an exclusive space for collaborations between designers and engineers, together with scientists and stakeholders. It will focus on education to widen STEM education, improve interest and learning outcomes and introduce smart applications in schools. It will also focus on governance to improve the delivery of public services and public health, thus bridging the gap between the government and the public.

Commenting on the official launch, Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation, H.E. Paula Ingabire said: “CcHUB’s expansion into Kigali, marked with the launch of the Design Lab today, is an exciting landmark for Rwanda’s burgeoning tech community. Rwanda is keen on collaborating with world-class partners to establish ourselves as a leading destination that nurtures innovation-driven enterprises. We see technology as an integral gateway and means of developing society – an ethos and mission shared by CcHUB. As we strive to become a knowledge-based economy, we will continue to build long-lasting, strategic partnerships that celebrate excellence, forge ahead with progress and that are, essentially, a force for good that will impact thousands of people across the continent.”

The first local organisation to partner with the design lab is Rwanda Biomedical Centre, whose officials say they are keen to build digital solutions for public health.

“We will generally be spending more of our resources in adherence to treatment and focus on systems that can help us efficiently collect data,” Tijani noted.

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The concept of design is in the initial phases in developing countries but is steadily gaining traction.

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works,” Steve Jobs, Apple’s then chief executive, told the New York Times.

Drawing attention to the strides his country has already made, the director general of Rwanda’s National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), Kampeta Sayinzoga, told the technology news website IT News Africa, “The first mind-set we need to create is to build the link between research and product development. Through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, we research ways to enable design thinking to revolutionise the industrial space to create solutions.”

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