The government of Rwanda on Thursday, January 5, secured €37 million (approx. Rwf41 billion) loan from the French Development Agency (AFD) to transform more public services digitally and develop the country’s drone industry.
The related agreement is also complemented with a €1.2 million grant to mobilize French expertise in project implementation.
Providing quality services and customer care across public and private sectors has been of priority as outlined under the economic transformation pillar of the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), the medium term national strategy (2017 – 2024). But more needs to be done in terms of necessary infrastructure.
Besides improving public services that are still hampered by old local computer networks at central and local administration levels, the loan will also help the country to tap into the potential for using geospatial data – information recorded in conjunction with geographic indicators.
After signing the deal, Uzziel Ndagijimana, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said: “It will help in unlocking drone private sector development and supporting policy design, monitoring, and evaluation across government. It will also support innovation and economic development based on geospatial and drone-generated databases.”
The Minister indicated that the loan will be used to finance the construction of a Drone Operations Center of excellence, in Huye District. The latter will be a place to test new-use cases for the industry as well as the operationalization of a geospatial hub (GeoHub), centralized geospatial data infrastructure and services.
The hub seeks to improve evidence-based development, planning, monitoring and evaluation of public policies of the country in various fields such as urban planning, response to natural disasters, health, and agriculture, among others.
A private company will manage the DOC while the Rwanda Space Agency will manage the GeoHub.
Arthur Germond, AFD’s Director in Rwanda, said this was the agency’s first financing to the digital sector of Rwanda.
“This project will help reduce the access gap between the capital and the rest of the country. It will also make the country more attractive and create economic opportunities in Huye District thanks to support for the drone industry,” he noted.
In Rwanda, drones are being used to deliver blood supplies, support precision agriculture, inspect power lines, conduct aerial mapping of land, and most recently, in fighting mosquitoes.
The government also partnered with a US-based global drone firm, Auterion, to establish its hub in the country with the objective of collaborating in rolling out services in areas such as freight and postal cargo, health and humanitarian aid.