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Africa-wide scope for Rwandan ICT & print model

Interview - October 7, 2016

Five years ago Mario Safari Rugambwa spotted a gap in the quality and quantity capabilities of Rwanda’s printing services and launched Touch Media Design Ltd to put that right. Now the company offers a wide array of printing and ICT services that receive such high demand that it sometimes needs to outsource. Mr Rugambwa explains the key role of ICT in Rwanda’s development and Touch Media Design’s plans to replicate its business model across Africa.



Why is Rwanda pushing to become the ICT hub of Africa?

I will go straight by saying that ICT adds more value to the national revenue and reduces the unemployment rate, especially in the developing countries. As you know, Rwanda has limited natural resources, but what we do have is our people and our knowledge. We have to use our knowledge in ICT to develop our people and our country. The growth of the ICT infrastructure has a positive effect on net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into developing countries.

ICT infrastructure (both physical and institutional) is crucial for attracting both foreign direct investment and equity portfolio investment into developing countries, which is a very obvious thing. If for example, a developing country wants to spur economic growth through value-added exports growth, ICT infrastructure growth is a MUST in order to attract these two types of capital inflows I have mentioned.


Rwanda has also ambitions to become the start-up capital of Africa and put in place initiatives such as KLAB and the Kigali Innovation City. Youth & ICT Minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana says Rwanda wants to become an attractive country to innovators. What is your point of view, as one of Rwanda’s young entrepreneurs and innovators?

Rwanda is focused on developing different sectors. As a young entrepreneur I put a lot of effort into giving a good service and on-time delivery to my clients. I try to innovate in what I do and up to 50% of my activities are related to ICT. These government initiatives will definitely benefit the whole country.


You recently told us you had international expansion plans. Do you see your business model replicated in other countries in the region? What markets are you thinking of penetrating?

If you look at what we are doing in Touch Media Design, we are a local company involved in printing and advertising. We are now thinking of opening different branches across Africa, such as in Angola, Burundi, Kenya, DRC and Uganda. I traveled through the region and saw I can replicate what we do in Rwanda in other markets. Right now we are focused on Angola; I saw there are a lot of opportunities as people need visibility, and we can help them with that.


Touch Media Design Ltd specializes in fusing elements of design and technology. What innovations did you bring to Rwanda’s market?

Design and ICT are very interrelated. We have an ICT department here and try to develop different programs and ICT platforms. Most of our clients need good graphics, so they need good programmers. We deliver those services as we also do in-house programming. I cannot say that we do not need help of investors because we do not have the whole market in hand; 50% we do it here and 50% abroad. Therefore if we get more investors in the printing field we shall handle the market and the revenue will be higher than ever.


Could you elaborate further on the services you provide?

We do offset printing, large format printing, promotional materials; we do web designing and propose different programs to different clients. We offer a multitude of services that our clients require.


You are the chosen partner by renowned institutions in Rwanda. What is your comparative advantage?

We deliver good quality on promised time. We are available 24h for our clients. Through our website, email or phone we are always available for our clients. We use youth generation as well for availability purposes as well. Once we have a contract with a client, we are here for him. We also invest in good machinery to deliver the best quality.


Your biggest client is the Government of Rwanda. What services do you offer them?

Our biggest client is the Government, as Rwanda hosts different international conferences and summits, and Touch Media Design partners and collaborates with it through different services.


Touch Media Design Ltd is a young dynamic company founded, managed and owned by you. What drew you to create this company?

Five years ago, while I was at university studying information technology, I saw the printing business was very poor, both in quality and quantity. So when people wanted to print they would go to Kenya, Uganda, Dubai and so on. I saw there was an opportunity and I decided to venture into it and I started Touch Media Design. At the beginning it was tough, but here we are today.


What would you highlight as achieved milestones?

When I started I did not have capital, and the banks didn’t grant me loans, as I had no guarantees. I started slowly, with one small machine, but today I have 30 permanent employees, and when we have big workloads we even outsource.

Nowadays we have big offset and digital machines. 70% of our work is being done in-house and 30% outsourced in our co-companies. That is why I am looking for investors; we have the demand and want to cover 100% of our works in-house.


Where do you envision your company by 2020?

I would like to have presence in at least 10 African countries.


What qualities does a good leader have for you?

For me the key is to lead by example and have good communication within the company.


How would you like the international community to perceive Rwanda?

Rwanda is a country that is developing and undergoing a transformation. We have a lot to offer; we enjoy security and have a lot of investment potential. I would like people to come here and see what Rwanda is, and has to offer with their own eyes.


What would you say are the reasons behind the growing interest in Africa, especially in attracting investments?

African countries are in the developmental state. Africans’ still suffer poverty, so we need to develop our countries and our different sectors. That means we need knowledge transfer and investments to develop and to build our countries. That is why it is so interesting. But I cannot forget that what we have and where the country has reached, we owe it to our President, His Excellency Paul Kagame. He is a great man and my role model; I am doing this to not let him down.