Airtel Africa Launches $17 4G Smartphone in Rwanda   

By Mark Kawalya

In an effort to close the digital divide in Rwanda, Airtel Africa and the Rwandan government have released an affordable 4G smartphone in the market. This initiative which is part of the larger ConnectRwanda 2.0 program, purposes to give over a million Rwandans access to state-of-the-art LTE smartphones by 2024.The smartphone is an affordable option for many, costing only $16.5 USD (about 20,000 Rwandan Francs) with a monthly fee of a minor USD $0.8.

The project was launched ahead of the 2023 Mobile World Congress, with notable attendees including Segun Ogunsanya, the Group CEO of Airtel Africa, and Mr. Gordon Kalema, the Director General of Digital Transformation, who represented the Minister of ICT for Rwanda, Hon. Paula Ingabire. Mr. Ogunsanya expressed his excitement for the project and underlined how quickly Rwanda is likely to achieve digitization.

However, Mr. Kalema highlighted the important role that this effort will play in accomplishing the government of Rwanda’s ambitious aim of digitizing all government operations by 2024. He highlighted the critical role this initiative will play in achieving that goal. In addition to the smartphone, users will receive unlimited calls to any network in Rwanda and 1GB of data each day, all of which will encourage increased use of digital connectivity.

Additionally, the project has gained support from all around the world, with a contribution from Reed Hastings, the chairman and co-founder of Netflix. “This exciting partnership between Airtel Rwanda and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings marks a significant milestone towards unlocking smartphone affordability,” Ingabire said.

This partnership is a step in the right direction of fostering digital inclusion and innovation in Rwanda. Since the smartphone sector is one of the main drivers of technological growth, the move will set a new precedent for other African nations to follow suit.

Affordability has been the largest obstacle to smartphone ownership in Rwanda, where the ownership rate is currently 27%. The launch will encourage innovation and economic growth as well as be a step toward digital inclusion. The initiative’s ripple effects are expected to dramatically advance Rwanda’s socioeconomic status as more people get access to digital resources.       

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