The recent seventh Tokyo International Conference of Africa Development (TICAD7) allowed a successful connection between Rwandan tech companies and counterparts in Japan.
Held on August 28-30, the conference, which was chaired by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, was attended by President Paul Kagame and 25 other African head of states, as well as high level delegates from African countries, private sectors, civil societies, and International Organisations.
Among the Rwandan delegation was a group of 26 ICT companies' representatives, who sought to enter agreements with Japanese and African businesses to tap into various opportunities.
All of the representatives have returned to Rwanda with either a Memorandum of Understanding or other variant of business agreements.
Regis Ishimwe, from Vision Technologies Ltd, after signing with a Japanese Company rep-resentative. /Courtesy.
BBOXX, a smart solar company based in Rwanda, raised $50m in a round of investment from Mitsubishi Corporation. VolksWagen Rwanda based assembling plant and its Move the ride sharing cabs, received also received investment from Toyota Tsusho.
This business connection of entrepreneurs in both countries has not been made on a whim. The business partnerships have been cultivated for nearly a decade through various JICA support and it is also one of the four main targets of JICA ICT Innovation Ecosystem Strengthening Project.
The project, which started operations last year, works at achieving four main targets including promoting innovative ICT enables activities through creating various mechanism and innovation centres as well as building capacities to create conducive policies to support ICT entrepreneurs and innovations.
The initiative also works to promote business relationships between Rwandan and Japanese ICT sectors, and sharing innovative development practices borne by the Project to both Rwandan and African stakeholders.
The project has been working in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Information Society Authority, ICT Chamber and Smart Africa Rwanda to achieve the outputs.
Companies like BSC, TRES, Go Ltd, Vision Technologies, Immaginet, Charis, Opera, RTN, Hexacomb, KivuCold and others were facilitated with travelling to Japan through the Project and were also accompanied by experts equipped with an understanding of Rwanda and Japan tech business ecosystem, to help them tap into the concrete opportunities.
"We had over 200 Japanese companies visited Rwanda to study ICT and innovation related opportunities in the past 12 months. However, it is now a heyday to elevate relationships from the simple study visits to concrete business partnerships." Said, Atsushi Yamanaka, Chief Advisor of the ICT innovation Ecosystem Strengthening Project.
The above companies managed to have business agreements with Japan companies among others, Axelspace, Warp Space, Amegumi Inc, MYUNGRA CO Ltd, Gaina Pro Co Ltd, Shinko Co Ltd AFRIJERICA, TerraDrone, Fumin Co, Ltd, Amegumi Inc.
Beyond the business discourse, by far the most important topic of the conference and its various sidelines events, experts have suggested another area of the two countries' matching. They suggest cultural exchange to be considered as the next opportunity since Rwanda and Japan share common cultural values.
"The business to Business engagements and agreements that were signed in Tokyo are a testament to the possibilities present to do business not just in Rwanda but beyond in the region as well as in new emerging industries like space technologies, artificial intelligence and clean Tech.
Specifically we have seen that the relationship and support with JICA over the years has grown and has contributed to creation of new technology companies and boosted investment and business partnerships among the two countries." said Alex Ntale, CEO of ICT Chamber.