President Paul Kagame has said that he trusted the idea of Zipline launching its drones in Rwanda in 2016 as the first place for the US tech company that had failed to secure permission to operate back home.
Rwanda become the first country in the world where Zipline commenced its drone technology operations that same year. At the launch, President Kagame said that Rwanda must move faster in using ICT driven technology which has the power to change lives, and contribute to the rapid socio-economic transformation which Rwandans want in order to turn around the country’s economy.
“Good enough is no longer enough. We need to aim for the best. We want to do faster and do it in a way Rwandans will be part of it, learn and be trained. I hope that this project will inspire more innovation and entrepreneurship in commercially viable technologies in Rwanda,” Kagame said at the launch event in the remote village of Shyogwe in Muhanga district, on October 14, 2016.
On the occasion of the launch of the company’s next generation technology, Platform 2 (P2), this March 15, 2023, Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, co-founder and CEO of Zipline, asked if it was obvious back then for Kagame to believe in the project, looking at the way it has scaled up for the last seven years in delivering health services.
Kagame said that it was not obvious but it was something to do with what the country has gone through (its history) which has shown a trajectory of many difficulties but also shaped with understanding that things have to be done.
Kagame said that this perspective informed the decision to allow the company to have its proof of concept in Rwanda.
“It wasn’t obvious but we believed in the idea itself and that of trying as well. The beauty of it is once you make one step forward and you see there is progress then you want to do more at every stage,” Kagame explained in a video call interview.
Kagame explained that he was convinced with the idea of Zipline technology even when he wasn’t sure that something good can come out of it, a similar case that was happening with the four US tech nerds who had started the project.
Kagame stated that this case of Zipline Rwanda partnership built on trust can be used as a case in point of transformation of economic prosperity that changes people’s lives for the better and the next step that matters is the scaling up.
Looking back at Kagame’s belief in the Zipline since 2016, the numbers involved don’t lie.
Since Zipline’s launch in 2016, the drone company has grown from making five to 10 drone deliveries per day to now 350 flights per day in Rwanda, one of its busiest distribution centers in the world.
Moving on the partnership, Kagame said that the next move is to move into profitability and promote e-commerce to allow universal access in transactions at the doors and engage the market to save time and money.
To seal his belief in the Zipline project, President Kagame was asked if he can allow his house to be used as one of the delivery sites (launch point) for Zipline’s new products at the end of the year, and he agreed to it with a smile saying: “Let’s make it the first”.
As of 2021, Zipline, arguably the world’s largest drone delivery service for medical supplies which was founded in Rwanda had raised $250 million in new equity financing, bringing the company’s valuation to $2.75 billion.
The new financing was aimed at enabling Zipline to continue advancing its integrated service, including its autonomy platform, aircraft, fulfilment systems, and operations.
In 2022, Zipline entered a $61 million partnership with the Government of Rwanda to add new drone delivery sites throughout the country in a bid to expand operations in the country of which Zipline expects to fly about 124 million miles through the partnership, up from the current 35 million miles.
Rwanda plans to complete close to 2 million deliveries via drone and to fly more than 200 million kilometers (over 124 million miles) in Rwanda by the year 2029.
In recent years, the model has been adopted in multiple countries on the continent and beyond including Ghana, Nigeria, Japan and United States -especially signing a Space Act Agreement big partners with US based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to pursue a future vision of U.S. aviation that includes delivery drones and air taxis.
This Wednesday March 15, 2023 Zipline came up strongly unveiling its new platform that provides quiet, fast and precise autonomous delivery directly to homes in cities and suburbs. The company’s next generation home delivery platform is practically silent (designed to sound like wind rustling leaves), and is expected to deliver up to 7 times as fast as traditional automobile delivery, completing 10-mile deliveries in about 10 minutes.