By David Himbara
Kagame hatched a US$60.8 million innovation fund to capitalize Rwanda’s digital companies in 2018. By January 2023, the fund had disbursed US$917,500, of which Rwandan companies’ share was US$160,000 (17%) while US$757,500 (83%) was poured into foreign companies.
General Paul Kagame branded himself among the global elites as “the digital president” who champions Rwanda’s and Africa’s digital economy. Together with his Korean counterpart, Park Guen-Hue, he was awarded the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Kagame was later rewarded by the UN with a co-chairmanship of the Broadband Commission which advocates for expanding broadband access to every country. Kagame’s digital masquerade ranks among the biggest lies he peddles. The fiasco of his US$60.8 million innovation fund for capitalizing Rwanda’s digital startups is indisputable evidence, if any were needed.
General Paul Kagame hatched a US$68.6 million Rwanda Innovation Fund (RIF) in 2018. His government was to invest US$8.6 million against US$30 million private investment while the African Development Bank (AfDB) supplied a US$30 million loan. RIF was to support digital companies at various stages through incubators and accelerators, facilitating additional angel networks, and training digital entrepreneurs.
The Rwanda Innovation Fund Has not Delivered: African Development Bank
The 2022 AfDB’s evaluation of the Rwanda Innovation Fund was gloomy – every RIF outcome indicator was rated as “likely to be achieved with corrective actions.” The progress of training entrepreneurs was ranked a pathetic 7 percent. The success story in the AfDB evaluation report is Veibeg, a data-driven medical supply chain start-up. According to the report, Veibeg “has impacted over two million 2 million people by contributing to reducing the cost of medical supplies in three countries by between 20% to 40% of market price in barely three years of its existence.” Veibeg was founded by an Austrian national, Tobias Reiter and his Kenyan friend Alex Musyoka.
The Rwanda National Innovation Fund Has Disbursed US$917,500 in 5 Years of which 83 percent Financed Foreign Companies
The 2023 Auditor General Report delivers even worse news. He explains that at the time of the audit in February 2023, “out of US$917,500 invested, only US$160,000 (17%) was invested in Rwandan companies while US$757,500 (83%) was invested in foreign companies.” Even more shockingly, the Kagame regime reneged on its support of the innovation fund, as the Auditor General reveals:
“Out of the amount committed, MINECOFIN only disbursed US$3,160,000 (or 3.2% of the targeted fund) to RIF Ltd by February 2023. There is an urgent need for MINECOFIN and RDB to review the project implementation strategies.”
The words of the 19th-century Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, come to mind here. “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” Stay Tuned.