Rwanda can be proud of these accomplishments, creating an education and research hub with world class institutions in Kigali that should deliver the skills and expertise required for its Vision 2020 strategic plan to become a knowledge based economy. These new world class partners will at least triple the number of highly skilled students that will graduate each year in Rwanda. Adding to that the extraordinary effort by the GOR in Higher Education that has seen the number of students increased from 3,261 in 1994 to 87,013 in 2015, this is making the KIC strategy and project even stronger than it was at his inception, providing probably the best high level skills available in the region for future investors in KIC.
Let me now get back to the new plan presented by the chief strategist of KIC. The base idea of the plan is to install all the new education partners AIMS, ALU and ITCP in KIC where CMU was the first anchor tenant planned. That idea makes a lot of sense to create a critical mass of expertise and skills and to foster interaction and collaboration between those institutions in the spirit of a dynamic ecosystem that can nurture innovation and new businesses.
So far so good, but the problem is in the execution plan.
KIC is a 61 ha (150 acres) site. A quarter of it (25% or 15 ha) has been dedicated to CMU and the ICT CoE as shown in the master plan. The rest of it (75% or 46 ha) was dedicated for the city including business offices, government buildings, shopping center, financial district, support services, green space, etc.
In the new plan presented by the chief strategist which I reproduce here as accurately as possible since we did not get a copy of it, the city has been reduced to less than 20% of the space while CMU, AIMS, ALU and ITCP would take 80%! So 80% of the space will be dedicated for higher education institution campuses where we can imagine their buildings being built in the middle of large green landscaping typical of university campuses, like a large prairie.
New KIC plan presented in December 2016
It is difficult to understand the logic beyond that change if only to provide each institutions with similar space. The CMU academic building (shown above) covers less than 1 ha in a zone of 15 ha. The building is only representing Phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 will see the construction of a conference center, a student activity center with cafeteria and sports facilities, students lodging and visiting professor guest house. Even when Phase 2 will be completed, there will be lots of space left in the 15 ha zone. CMU presented RDB with the idea to offer that space left to the new institutions like AIMS and ALU. There is enough space for that.
There a several advantages to that approach. First those institutions can share common facilities described in CMU Phase 2 above, i.e. activity center, students lodging, etc., thereby reducing the total cost. Second and probably more important is that this sharing will facilitate and encourage contacts and synergy between their students. It is this cohort of world class engineering, business school, mathematics and physics students that will be the new generation of innovators and leaders that will transform Africa. Third by concentrating all the universities in the space proposed for universities in the master plan, it leaves the original 75% of KIC available for the real objective of it, i.e. the development of an ICT industry and hub as originally planned.
I mentioned earlier that the KIC project did not achieve its goals yet, but I also said that there was nothing really abnormal about it. Indeed, I can imagine how difficult it has been for the RDB investment promotion services to convince businesses to come to KIC which has been a large maize field since the beginning of the project.
But now that the anchor and flagship regional ICT CoE building is almost completed and that the base road infrastructure is being built, and that Rwanda was successful in attracting AIMS, ALU and ICTP in addition to CMU, the value proposition is much more attractive for those potential investors.
I guess that what is left is the legal framework. The business plan issued with the master plan gives an overview of some of the incentives that could be offered at KIC:
- Corporate income of 20% after tax holiday of 10 years
- Capital Gains Tax-Exempt to the SEZ enterprise
- Tax on Dividend- Exempt within SEZ
- ICT-Research, Innovation & Development (Including software development)
- Allowable Expense– Double Tax Deduction.
- Effective 15% subsidy of actual expense taken off SEZ enterprise tax liability
Seeya later alligator....