Artist's impression of a Rwandan droneport © Redline-EPFL and Foster + Partners
Artist's impression of a Rwandan droneport © Redline-EPFL and Foster + Partners

If Rwanda’s drones take off, will Africa’s economy soar?

19 February 2016

Paul Kagame, the 58-year-old president of the small East African republic of Rwanda (population 11.3m), wants to turn his country into a regional tech hub. Having ticked off fibre optic broadband, 4G and free public Wi-Fi, he is focusing on drones and the Droneport project.

A collaboration led by Afrotech – an initiative to pioneer advanced technologies in Africa on a massive scale – the Droneport project brings together the Norman Foster Foundation, architects Foster + Partners, and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Afrotech’s base).

Drones could ignite Africa’s economy – generating an extra $6trn in GDP from 2020 to 2030, according to Deloitte – by bringing its internet penetration up to that of the West. Cautious bureaucrats, crowded skies and dense populations have kept commercial drones grounded in the West, but light regulation, a unique set of problems and relatively virginal infrastructure suggest they could transform Africa.

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