Rwanda could turn to private sector for laptop project

Sunday November 26 2017

Gahini Primary School in the Eastern Province of Rwandago through on a Mathematics subject.

Gahini Primary School in the Eastern Province of Rwandago through on a Mathematics subject. The laptop programme is facing funding shortfalls. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

By LEONCE MUVUNYI
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Rwanda's government is considering a private sector solution to sustain the state-funded laptop programme for learners, which is having funding shortfalls.

Under a deal signed in 2014 with Brazilian firm Positivo BGH to supply 150,000 laptops to learners annually for five years, the government through the Ministry of Education was supposed to pay the firm a deposit of Rwf25.2 billion ($29.4 million) every year.

Positivo BGH was to assemble the computers locally. The unit cost, averaging $220, would then be recovered through loans to students.

A recent assessment by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and Communication (MITEC) found that it would be difficult for the government to meet the commitment due to budget constraints.

The Minister of MITEC, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, said the government would look to the private sector to finance the scheme.

“The selected companies will pre-finance the scheme and recover their money through sales to students,” Mr Nsengimana told Rwanda Today.

Rwanda Today understands that the Ministry of Education is in talks with MTN Rwanda, the Development Bank of Rwanda and the Bank of Kigali to manage the scheme.

Reducing annual orders

The government is also renegotiating the contract with Positivo BGH to reduce annual orders from 150,000 units to 40,000. As a result the unit price will rise to $264.

Mr Nsengimana said the revised contract would also accommodate some adjustments to the specifications of laptops meant for secondary and tertiary education.

Juan Ignacio Ponelli, the chief strategy officer at Positivo BGH, said reducing the volumes has impacted the project and they would now have to examine their business strategy.

“We are working on the possibility of producing other items for export,” he said.

Meanwhile, about 11,000 university students have complained about the specifications of laptops given to them in 2016. They say the laptops were designed for secondary school students.

Vincentie Nyangoma, the acting Head of Department in charge of ICT in Education, at the Ministry of Education said a solution was available for those students with laptops that had technical hitches.

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