Why Is Telecom Critical To Rwanda's Development?

The continent of Africa is on the move. In the '80s the world saw the development of the Asian Tigers. These were Asian developing economies that adopted an export led strategy that created a thriving middle class. Today, we have the appearance of the "African Gorillas". The African Gorillas are African nations that are adopting export led market economies. These new economies have an excellent chance of influencing the globalized economy in a positive way. What are the things that the African Gorillas must do to develop market economies and get them away from foreign aid? A powerful telecom industry is a must have.

One of the nations at the forefront of African development is Rwanda. This is a nation that has a sordid past, but now has a forwarding looking President. President Paul Kagame has created strong ties to the West. He understands that the only hope for his country is a strategy of job creation. The only way that Rwanda and the rest of Africa can be stabilized is if there is strong, vibrant, well-educated middle-class that has significant jobs that pay well that come from the private sector.

Rwanda is a perfect example of what can happen to a society when there is no economic stability. In 1994, Rwanda suffered one of the biggest genocides in the world's history. In one month, 1/8 of its population was massacred. President Kagame understands that Rwanda must grow its economy, create opportunities for higher wages that will create the conditions for trust, tolerance, and optimism.

To do this, President Kagame has traveled extensively in the U.S. and developed close ties with significant American businessman that want to assist Rwanda in its development. There are certain key metrics that President Kagame should key on.

President Kagame must develop a vibrant telecom industry. Rwanda is an underdeveloped nation. President Kagame must work within his limitations. The western development of a specialized, simplified smart phone is a must. Rwandan entrepreneurs must have a simplified means to connect to the rest of the world, with an easy to navigate dashboard.

Rwanda must develop the strong, wireless networks in which the entire country can be always connected to one another. A smart phone is a computer in your pocket. Using the United States as a bench mark it can be easily understood why telecom is absolutely critical to the development of Rwanda and the rest of the African Gorillas.

In the U.S. 90% of Americans are within 3 feet of their telephones, 24 hours a day. The phone is always on. With a smart phone Rwandans can communicate in real time. This is critical in an agricultural economy. With real time communication, Rwandan farmers know which markets will give the best prices on a daily basis. They will know what the weather forecast will be, so that they can plan their planting accordingly. They can communicate with many banks to get the best price on a loan for new equipment.

President Kagame has a special advisory council to help in Rwanda's development strategy. This council is made up of 10 successful businessmen and academics, including Sir Tony Blair. One of the most important members of this council is Scott Ford, former CEO of Alltel.

Alltel is now part of Verizon. During Mr. Ford's watch, Alltel developed a powerful, wireless network to mostly rural, wireless customers---the same demographic that makes up most of present day Rwanda.

Dean Hambleton