In Rwanda, there is no lack of straw, as it’s a by-product of maize and wheat farming. Yet until recently, there was little use for it, and most of it got burned.
That changed with the arrival of Strawtec in the country in 2016. As its name indicates, Strawtec uses technology to transform straw into construction materials – mainly walls and partitions.
That in itself is revolutionary. The company has taken what was basically a waste product, and turned it into construction materials, for which there is a big demand and many of which had to be imported. And it is cheaper per square metre than other techniques used in construction, so it perfectly taps into the affordable housing market, which in the coming decade will have to come up with hundreds of thousands of residential units to meet the growing demand.
Yet while Strawtec’s technology was initially promoted as affordable, the company wants to show that their product is not cheap but a high-quality construction material that can serve any market, whether it is affordable housing or high-end residencies. And to do so, they went beyond manufacturing and turned to real estate investment. With the official launch of the first two houses of their Gisozi Heights estate, they have convincingly demonstrated that Strawtec’s products are in no way inferior to brick and mortar.
In addition, they allow for a more versatile construction process, which means it is much easier to adapt the standard designs for the estate to the individual needs of the buyers. And all of it can be built in record time.
In our previous issue, we highlighted Yegomoto, and this time we’re talking about Strawtec. These are two companies who came to Rwanda, identified a problem or demand, and then used technology to address these. And there are more companies like them.
This shows how the Government has managed to create an environment where technological innovation blossoms, and both local and foreign entrepreneurs are taking advantage of it to address local needs in the first place, but also to find a foothold to expand on the continent and globaly.
That is also the case of babyl, which we also portray in this issue, with its innovative way of providing health services. It was created in London, but the first country they chose to conquer the rest of the world was Rwanda. That was no coincidence.
We can expect more such companies attracted by Rwanda’s tech-stimulating and business-friendly environment, and are keen to witness the technological innovations they will produce.