December 22, 2019

Health Ministry To Spend Over Rwf7b Distributing Free Smartphones

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Inside a Maraphone sales shop. A new government ‘Connect Rwanda’ challenge will see tens of thousands of sets bought in the country

The Health Ministry announced late Saturday it was immediately joining a ‘Smartphone Challenge’ launched by President Paul Kagame moments earlier.

Kagame, in a Tweet said: “I am happy to support the #ConnectRwanda challenge with a pledge of 1500 Made-in-Rwanda @MaraPhones. Smartphones should not be a luxury item. Let’s challenge ourselves to make smartphones an everyday tool enabling all Rwandans to fulfill their potential.”

Within 40mins, the Minister of Health Dr Diane Gashumba responded with her own announcement. Her ministry will buy Mara Phones for all community health workers or known locally as ‘Abajyanama b’ubuzima’.

In every village, there are 4 volunteers who work as the village’s health officer. They give basic healthcare including first aid, birth control pills, as well as diagnose and treat malaria.

The health ministry will distribute 1,000 Mara Phones to the abajyanama of one district – yet unamed, before end of February next year, said Dr Gashumba.

But by December same year, all community health workers will have been provided with the Mara Phones.

This is going to be a huge financial and logistical undertaking, and could make the health ministry the biggest customer for Mara Phones.

Here are the numbers: There are 14,837 villages in Rwanda, each with 4 community health workers.

Lets assume the health ministry will buy the cheapest Mara Phone, which goes for Rwf 120,000. The most expensive sells at Rwf 175,000 a piece.

With the cheapest model, the health ministry is going to spend about Rwf 7.2billion.

There is no indication yet as to how this mass phone buying will be financed by the health ministry. However, the amount to be spent on smartphones is peanuts compared to the Rwf 234.8b health budget for the current financial year.

The first batch of 1,000 Mara Phones will easily be purchased from current budget, and then in June next year, the time for budgeting, the other phones will be budgeted for.

With Kagame’s #ConnectRwanda challenge now out there, the next hours, days and weeks will see all government agencies and private sector struggling to outcompete the other.

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  1. Nurses, doctors in the hospitals not allowed to use Phones during working hours, now Community health workers who will ring to?

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