City focus: Kigali
Known for its clean streets and progressive technology startups, the capital city of Rwanda offers visitors a vibrant, creative, and cultural view of East Africa. Following on from its turbulent history, communities now meet for the monthly Umuganda – in which the population, including the president, clean the streets.
Arts and culture
With tourists often visiting the nation to immerse themselves in the nature of what is known as the land of a thousand hills, Kigali can attract visitors away from safaris and into the city with its booming restaurant scene. The land-locked country relies on its Lake Kivu to offer fresh fish, whilst Rwanda’s hills and volcanic soil provide the perfect conditions for growing coffee. The city’s art culture is known to attract tourism, with sites ranging from a former presidential house turned museum to the Niyo Art Gallery – which shares its profits with the Niyo Cultural Centre to fund the education of street children. The centre, located in the north of the city, teaches traditional Rwandan dancing, drumming, and singing.
A tech hub
The Rwandan government is focusing its financing within the technology industry as it aims to develop a knowledge-based and middle-income economy. In 2016, Innovation City was launched to meet this goal. The strategy has led to the government establishing a RWF87.5bn (US$100mn) venture fund with a goal attached – to create more than 100 technology companies that are worth RWF43.7bn ($50mn) by 2030. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) was introduced as an administrative department to target investment and innovation hub development in the nation, and has since enabled companies to launch technology hubs in the capital city. The RDB cites “sustained economic growth”, “robust governance”, “investor friendly climate”, “access to markets” and “excellent labour markets” as reasons to invest in its operations.
“In Kigali, we have found a location that makes travel to-and-from other African countries seamless and also has the modern and connected infrastructure we require to collaborate with a global workforce,” stated Jeremy Johnson, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Andela, a software engineers-focused firm that established a hub in the city through RDB earlier this year.
In 2016, the government initiative Innovation City saw the city covered in an infrastructure of fibre optic cables that has enabled 95% of Kigali to be connected to 4G LTE. In November 2018, the initiative received RWF350bn ($400mn) in funding from Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment company.
The Convention Centre
Kigali has seen a rise in its role as a host, with events such as the Audiovisual Forum and Rwanda BUILDEXPO taking place in the Kigali Convention Center. The building, established approximately three miles east from the central business district on Nyarugenge Hill, was developed by the Ultimate Concept Limited consortium. Prime Holdings Limited, the Social Security Fund of Rwanda, and the Rwanda Investment Group invested a total of RWF262.5bn ($300mn) into the project. Construction began on the iconic building in 2009 and was completed seven years later in 2016. The shape and light features on the structure symbolise the innovative and technologically-advanced future of the city, which was substantiated when the centre won the award for Best Architectural Design at the Africa Property Investment Summit this year.
A masterplan, dubbed Kigali 2040, has been set for the city. The strategy features environmental and nature preservation plans, infrastructure development, and technology advancements. By the deadline, Kigali’s population of 1.2mn people is forecast to triple. The government will be required to find the space to increase residential capacity across the natural landscape without destroying it, calling for high-rise buildings.
In keeping with the city’s sustainable future, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has revealed plans to transform the Nyandungu wetland into an urban recreation and eco-tourism park. The RWF2.4bn ($27mn) project will be under construction for five years. Upon completion, the park will enable biodiversity conservation across native trees and aquatic habitats, as well as creating new jobs in the city. “The project is part of a plan to improve clean air, protect environment but also provide green environment for citizens to spend their time off in sports and enjoying the environment,” stated Dr Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources.
The masterplan aims to separate Kigali into three districts: Nyarugenge, Kicukiro, and Gasabo. Nyarugenge will form the city’s financial hub, with Kicukiro becoming the knowledge hub, and Gasabo to focus on employment and culture. “We have got different sections where we have the financial hub and the central part of the city, Gasabo district is considered as an employment hub, where we are looking forward to seeing different categories of industries, while in Kicukiro we will have universities and recreational parks,” stated Lilian Mupende, Director of Urbanisation at Kigali City Council, when the plans were released.
The forward-thinking city is demonstrating clear signs of progression, focusing its financing on sustainability, technology, and infrastructure with the aims of attracting more tourism to the cultural heart of Rwanda.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.