The world of startups continues to move in Mauritius, as Rwazi illustrates. Specializing in data services, Rwazi provides businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies with up-to-date information on Africa’s products, services and consumer activities collected directly from the field. Joseph Rutakangwa, tells us about his adventure!
Hello Joseph, where are you from and what brought you to Mauritius?
I am originally from Tanzania and I first came to Mauritius to study at the African Leadership University. I was fortunate to receive a corporate sponsorship from Pernod Ricard to attend the ALU. During my first year in Mauritius, I saw that it was the perfect destination to create a startup, as the country is well positioned for a company like Rwazi that focuses on Africa, but also caters to customers in Europe, North America and Asia.
Tell us about Rwazi, what drove you to create such a startup, the challenges you faced, the people it allowed you to meet.
Rwazi provides organizations with field data from developing countries. This is mainly data on products, services and activities that are not digitally accessible and in hard-to-reach areas. Prior to Rwazi, I worked as a consultant helping multinationals expand in Africa and the most common challenge was the lack of data on the ground. There is no means of collecting and analysing field data from developing countries, particularly from African countries.
On the one hand, organizations need data on the ground to make effective decisions on activities such as expansion, investments, distribution, new product/service offerings and reaching target beneficiaries. On the other hand, millions of young people in Africa need income-generating activities. They are in school, use smartphones, have daily access to the internet, and are the target consumers or beneficiaries. Rwazi fills both gaps by offering data collection gigs to qualified young people, called cartographers, while organizations have the advantage of access to such valuable data.
As with most startups, we had to overcome many challenges, including securing the necessary capital, onboarding the right people, and visibility. Fortunately, we had professional help from The Beach Factory’s incubation and acceleration programs that helped us get started.
In addition, Mauritius has some excellent start-up programs, the first being the National SME Incubator Scheme (NSIS) of the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council, which we have been part of and have successfully completed.
The Mauritius ecosystem helped us take the first steps to reach the international level by becoming the first and only African startup to get the Vienna Startup Package and to participate in the Facebook Startup Circles program, among others.
How does Rwazi work? What is its concept based on?
- What we do:
Rwazi is a data services company that provides organizations with fresh, on-the-ground data on products, services, activities and more from Africa.
- How we do it:
We use our growing network of cartographers (i.e. data collectors) spread across cities, towns and villages in 40 African countries.
- Our unique advantage:
We are the first and only company in the world to have an extensive and growing network of cartographers located in urban and rural areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
- Our clients :
For-profit organizations, non-profit organizations and government agencies.
- Customer industries :
We serve clients in a variety of industries, including healthcare, consumer goods, automotive, education, finance, agriculture, energy, transportation, and media, among others.
- Our mission:
Make data accessible to facilitate effective decision making.
Mauritius aims to become a digital hub in the Indian Ocean. Given your startup’s mission, do you think the country is well positioned to achieve this goal?
Yes. Mauritius has designed brilliant programs to support entrepreneurs and startups, high visibility in the international community and a fast-acting public sector that works well with the private sector, compared to other countries in Africa. These characteristics put the country on track to become the digital hub of the Indian Ocean.
What are the next steps? (You don’t have to reveal all your secrets, of course!)
Next year, we will expand our network of mappers in specific regions of Asia to serve more organizations seeking information on the ground in these high-demand areas. We will share more details in due course.