Yesterday, Carnegie Mellon University Africa (CMU-Africa) inaugurated its new location at Kigali Innovation City. CMU-Africa's new home was officially opened by H.E. President Paul Kagame and CMU President Farnam Jahanian. In partnership with the Government of Rwanda, Carnegie Mellon University Africa was established in 2011 to address the critical shortage of high-quality engineering talent required to accelerate development in Africa. With a major focus on the emerging knowledge based economy on the continent, CMU-Africa’s graduate programs are educating future leaders who will use their hands-on, experiential learning to advance technology innovation and grow the businesses that will transform Africa. CMU-Africa is the first center of excellence to be located in Kigali Innovation City, whose goal is to promote and drive Rwanda’s economic growth through digital transformation.
Previously located at Telecom House in Kacyiru, the institution’s new home is a 6000-squaremeter facility and can accommodate up to 300 students. The new building will feature twice as many labs as its previous location, more specialized and inclusive facilities, and the modern technology to enable distance education and teleconferencing, connecting CMU-Africa to world-renowned researchers and instructors.
In his opening remarks, Hon. Eugene Mutimura, Rwanda’s Minister of Education thanked Guest of Honor, H.E President Paul Kagame for his vision and for the Government of Rwanda’s support of the education sector. “CMU-Africa programs in Rwanda have been in place for just less than a decade, and I am pleased to note that there has been increasing diversity of the program, with students and alumni representing 17 countries, with Rwandans comprising 51% of the student body. High-quality education is critical to Rwanda and Africa’s socioeconomic transformation and we appreciate the impact CMU-Africa is making toward this goal with nearly 200 accomplished alumni to date. We are excited to be an important partner in equipping Africa’s brightest minds with the tools to realize their potential.”
The new location opened to students in August 2019, and currently houses 130 students and 35 faculty and staff. The location was officially inaugurated by H.E Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, who received a virtual tour of the facilities, interacted with current students and alumni, and witnessed some of the cutting-edge technological advancements being developed by students and faculty.
CMU-Africa is an anchor of the Kigali Innovation City, which is a critical part of Rwanda’s vision for the future.H.E. President Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Carnegie Mellon University Africa
In his Keynote Address, H.E Paul Kagame stated, “This world class education is offered right here on the continent, to young Africans who are able to learn and do, in the very context of challenges that need to be addressed. This makes a difference in terms of solutions that are informed by reality. It will also contribute to the accelerated transformation we want, especially by developing a strong cadre of job creators. CMU-Africa is an anchor of the Kigali Innovation City, which is a critical part of Rwanda’s vision for the future.”
CMU-Africa’s vision is to educate and empower the next generation of African leaders and innovators by delivering a world-class educational experience. Speaking on Carnegie Mellon University’s partnership with Rwanda, CMU President, Farnam Jahanian, who was accompanied by several of the institution’s trustees, noted, “Africa, like the rest of the world, cannot achieve its full potential without significant investment in education, research and technology. With this in mind, Carnegie Mellon is committed to applying a globally inclusive mindset to our role as educators, knowledge creators and engines of economic impact. We are especially proud to be the only top U.S. research university offering its master’s degrees with a full-time faculty, staff and operations in Africa. We believe that investing in Africa’s young people is investing in a competitive and inclusive global economy, and for that reason, we have made a long-term commitment to bring our world-class education to Africa.”
During the event, invited guests – including Hon. Minister of ICT, Paula Ingabire, the CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Claire Akamanzi, as well as several industry leaders, anddignitaries, partners, and collaborators, participated in a location tour, heard directly from notable alumni—the majority of whom currently hold mid-level to senior-level management positions or are pursuing research through PhD programs around the world. According to CMUAfrica Director, Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, “We are committed to delivering an educational experience that meets the highest world standards for engineering education for the benefit of Africa’s socio-economic transformation. In this new facility, there is space for IT entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and there is space for the Kigali Collaborative Research Center, which is aimed at bringing researchers from CMU-Africa, University of Rwanda, and even CMU Pittsburgh and other academic institutions to work on research problems of relevance to Africa.”
CMU-Africa has been a springboard for the launch of several entrepreneurial ventures by alumni, including Hepta Analytics – a company located in both Rwanda and Kenya that uses data science and analytics to transform data into decisions that drive business growth. The company was started one-and-a-half years ago by a group of seven CMU-Africa students, including Yvonne Wambui, who was the Alumni Speaker at the inauguration ceremony. Wambui shared her personal journey as a student at CMU-Africa, and now as an entrepreneur in the startup space. Hepta Analytics is a service-based business, but has also notably developed and two unique products that are now ready to be launched, one of which was developed and fostered in CMU-Africa’s Innovation Lab. According to Wambui, “We had to adjust to life in the African startup ecosystem; to write our own story. We wanted to change the minds of investors regarding African startups: that we are worth it. My journey is proof that Africans are worth the investment. We are capable of great things when we put our minds to it. CMU-Africa has equipped not only myself, but more than 200 students, with technological skills and ways of implementing them in the African context. And we are seeing the impact. Together, let’s rewrite our continent’s narrative. Let’s invent the future of our continent.”
In his conclusion, H.E President Paul Kagame stated, “Like the rest of our continent, Rwanda’s economic growth depends on making the right links between technology and industry, and knowledge and production. It is worth repeating: Africa cannot afford to be left behind. Establishing these linkages therefore, is an urgent task. The milestone we are celebrating today is a significant step, in ensuring that we are part of, and benefit from, the global digital revolution.”
After his remarks, H.E President Paul Kagame was joined on stage by MSIT student Christopher Dare who moderated a fireside chat session. H.E President Paul Kagame answered questions from students about the vision behind CMU-Africa being established in Rwanda and shared his thoughts about the role Africa’s young technologists have to play on the continent. Watch the fireside chat here: