It’s easy to forget where you are when standing by the cappuccino
machine on the sixth floor of the Telecom House in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Telecom House, as the building is known (most buildings in Rwanda
don’t have addresses), is the center of Rwanda’s startup scene.
building houses Carnegie Mellon–Rwanda and kLab,
one the country’s best-established incubators. Since the Telecom House
lacks an address, visitors may get lucky and find a taxi driver who is
familiar with the building, as I did several times. More likely, you’ll
need to bring a map and tell taxi drivers to bring you to Kacyiru, the
neighborhood where the Telecom House is located along with many
government ministries and NGOs.
Once you are in the correct
neighborhood, you will have to guide the driver to the Telecom House, a
gleaming office building that wouldn’t look out of place if it were
dropped into a Silicon Valley office park.
kLab, an incubator and coworking space for tech entrepreneurs, takes
up the Telecom House’s sixth floor. From kLab’s glass-walled rooms and
rooftop deck, programmers and designers are able to work on a mix of
government and NGO consulting projects while also tackling independent
projects that often focus on developing new uses for SMS technology.
kLab contains a mix of recent graduates from Rwanda’s universities and
Americans and Brits who run tech companies in Rwanda and have adopted
kLab as their office, since it is one of the best places to meet
technically skilled Rwandans.
I spent many hours at kLab during my time in the country, talking
with Rwandan entrepreneurs who have lived through their nation’s
I also met with a number of government and World Bank
officials who think about economic development, and professors like
Michel Bezy, who focus on tech development. All of those conversations
painted a picture of a country pushing hard to become a tech center in