Enhancing citizen engagement among rural populations in Rwanda with a mobile solution

ITU News recently caught up with Victor Nkindi, the founder of the Rwanda-based startup, Hooza, which provides a 2-way mobile audio channel to help African governments reach out to a maximum number of citizens.

This technology was used during the 2017 Rwandan presidential elections, helping the National Electoral Commission to strengthen its awareness campaign for civic education. We asked Mr Nkindi a few questions about Hooza, how it helps improve lives and how tech entrepreneurship can flourish in emerging markets.

1. What challenge does your two-way audio channel aim to address?

Our mobile audio solution addresses the urgent need for African institutions to strengthen their communications by ensuring that a majority of individuals are reachable and can participate in the sustainable development of their community, when indeed, 88% of our population does not have access to the internet and 32% is not literate.

2. What has it helped to achieve in Rwanda?

In Rwanda, our solution helped communities to learn about their institutions and gave them a unique platform to participate in political debates by sharing their remarks and recommendations through a mobile audio channel.

The digital media provides real-time data from the concerned population. Institutions can use this data to solve the community’s problems.

For example, in 2017 we partnered with the Rwanda National Electoral Commission to drive a 2 month awareness campaign on civic education using short audio messages in Kinyarwanda (one of the official languages in Rwanda).

The campaign saw more than 400,000 citizens responding everyday with their concerns and inquiries in order to check their names on voting lists, the location of the voting bureau, what they do in case they lose their ID, details on the candidates’ names and backgrounds, or at what age they can vote. The Electoral Commission was able to collect their feedback in real time and immediately address their particular problems, requests or situations.

The solution helped to increase citizen engagement and enhance government responsiveness to their needs.

3. What sparked your interest in this problem and finding the solution?

As a media professional with over 12 years of experience in broadcast media, I am aware of the gap created by the digital revolution when it comes to delivering information to communities:

“Those not connected to the internet do not receive real-time information, and have less access to information via mainstream media, specifically in rural areas.” — Victor Nkindi

So I wanted to create a simple 2 way audio channel accessible through feature phones, with no need for the internet. The solution would give 80% of our populations in Rwanda and the Central African region access to information, beyond the barrier of internet access or illiteracy.

4. What can governments in emerging markets do to support innovation and entrepreneurship?

I am from Rwanda, a country that has decided to switch from an agriculture-based economy to a service-driven economy and that is creating a favorable environment for entrepreneurship and innovation.

RELATED: UN Broadband Commission meets in Rwanda to tackle digital divide

I urge our institutions to fund startups and their innovations while also providing training, coaching and mentorship initiatives. With incubators, accelerators, and enabling ecosystems, the private sector is stronger and more organized, creating opportunities, jobs, and wealth.

“My message is simple: believe in yourself and in your innovation. Because this is what we are: innovators. Entrepreneurs in Africa have so many opportunities as every sector needs their input.”

Hooza benefited from such initiatives through the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2015 where our idea was chosen out of thousands other African entrepreneur’s projects. We benefited from a mentorship and training program. Our business plan was validated by Accenture and we received seed capital. Such initiatives can be serve as an example to other African institutions and governments to benefit everyone.

5. How did you get to where you are today? Did you have to overcome any particular challenges to get there?

I decided to move from a senior executive position in the private sector to create my own media house Hooza in 2013.

My idea was to create a convergent media using mobile phones as a medium. As mobile phones were becoming the main platform to access content, I wanted to offer audio, video and text content accessible from feature phones and smartphone.

So I started with multimedia content distribution, then I developed ideas to support community development in sectors such as health, education, natural disasters, emergency situations, and public safety. The aim was to provide an effective tool for both top down and bottom up data collection and communications, which would help tostrengthen our institutions.

The challenges are still the same: how to find funding when the private sector is weak and the public institutions allocating funds have other, more immediate priorities.

6. As a successful entrepreneur, do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?

My message is simple: believe in yourself and in your innovation. Because this is what we are: innovators. Entrepreneurs in Africa have so many opportunities as every sector needs their input.

We are here to participate in the growth of our economies, let’s build it together, private and public. Also don’t hesitate to ask for help and support, and build a team of trusted partners, co-founders, mentors and advisors.

Today I am giving back to my community, advocating for youth empowerment through entrepreneurship and innovation, and working with various local and international institutions and non-profits.

I have been training and mentoring hundreds of young women and men in business accelerators and incubation hubs, impacting Rwanda’s key economic sectors such as agri-business, information and communication technologies, education and health.

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Victor Nkindi is Using the Power of the Media to Drive Civic Education in Rwanda

In 2008, following the deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU),  Rwanda initiated a national digital migration, this move by his home country helped stir up the desire for 2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur, Victor Nkindi to start his digital media platform – Hooza.

Victor Nkindi is a media professional and Senior Consultant at Hooza, a startup working in the production and distribution of digital content, business development and media Consulting, working in the field of digital media. Hooza was registered in 2012 at Rwanda Development Board and we are a certified media outlet since 2014 by Rwanda Media Commission. With expertise in digital media and communication consultancy, Content Design, Brand Building, Communication Strategic Planning, E-Learning and Mobile VAS Applications in the Great Lakes Region and East Africa Community. Victor and his team at Hooza’s extensive knowledge of digital media, peace building and development in the Great Lake and East African Community gives a large vision for creativity and the potential to elaborate the best communication tool to give access to information offering media services in packages that have been universally accepted by Public and Corporate Institutions.

In just a short time of operation, Victor and the Hooza team have distinguished the art of communication in Rwanda by creating personalized content in Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English and French languages on mobile platforms through text, audio and video content that helps close to 8.5 million mobile users in their daily lives. Hooza has developed the ultimate Mobile Governance tool for African countries used for mass dissemination of audio messages through mobile phones to overcome the barrier of illiteracy. Government organizations during nationwide campaigns are now able to disseminate audio messages to mobile active subscribers-average 80% of the population in Africa. The platform enables interactivity ie: the end user can also record his opinion after listening to the message.

Victor Nkindi a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur

The Hooza solution helps the governments in Africa to extract reliable real-time data on their campaign efficiency (number of subscribers, listeners, audio feedback retrieval…etc), for the forthcoming August 2017 presidential elections in Rwanda, the Hooza platform is been used by the National Electoral Commission to reach out to a maximum of citizen at voting age. The electorates receive daily notifications to listen to an audio message for civic education. With up to 60% of the population of Rwanda under 24 years of age, Hooza reached electorates directly through their mobile phones.

Like any new business Hooza has experienced challenges, including struggling with efforts to educate the audience and prospective clients. Rwanda is embracing an ICT services oriented strategy but some decision makers still struggle to take the movement in motion.

Victor sees learning from these challenges as an opportunity to give back as he now serves as a visiting lecturer at the University of Rwanda, School of Journalism and Communication where he shares with students his experience with New media, innovation and entrepreneurship and as well mentoring young entrepreneurs in Rwanda, sharing with them knowledge and opportunities to help them grow their business.  In his words “The university and young persons are the right place to ensure the future generation understand the challenges of creating and using digital media as a business that can benefit the majority of our population.”

The 2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur is proud to be amongst the first 15 Rwandans and 1,000 Africans entrepreneurs to be selected and says he has benefited from immensely from the programme through the learning platform which has helped him grow his business, mentorship by having Mr. Sylvere Boussamba an ICT and telecom professional helped him get grounded in the core of communications, networking and the priceless visibility that comes with being a TEF Entrepreneur.

Expanding the scope of operation has come as a core goal for the team as Hooza this year extended it’s service from audio platform to video, and as well commenced operations in Tanzania, Uganda and DR Congo. The strides of this Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur is now being noticed around the world with interest from organizations across Africa, Europe and America. For Victor and his team, the perspectives are great and there is no stopping.

Hooza is present on social networks Twitter: ; Facebook: ; Instagram , via email: and on the web:


VOA Kinyarwanda Programming Available on Mobile in Rwanda


The Voice of America and the Kigali-based digital media company Hooza have signed an agreement making VOA’s VOA60 Afurika program in Kinyarwanda available to mobile subscribers on the MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda networks.

“Increasingly, people are using their mobile phones to access information that is important to them,” said VOA Africa Division Director Negussie Mengesha. “We are happy to partner with Hooza to give the people of Rwanda the ability to stay abreast of the latest news.”

The 60-second daily news roundup in Kinyarwanda, produced by VOA’s Central Africa Service, will be available to smart and feature phone users by sending the keyword “VOA” to 2656. Subscribers will receive an SMS alert when new content is added, and when breaking news occurs. Subscribers also will have access to archived content and can engage with the service by leaving comments on the programs they hear.

Since 1996, VOA’s Central Africa Service has been the only international source of news and information in Kirundi and Kinyarwanda for Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Uganda and Northwest Tanzania. VOA broadcasts have a 36 percent audience share in Rwanda. VOA60 Afurika also is available on the service’s mobile site and social media.

Hooza, Ltd. is a media service provider, and a digital media and communications consultancy. The firm has more than a decade of experience in broadcast programming and management, with expertise in social development, finance, economics and peace building in Africa’s Great Lakes Region and the East Africa Community.

Hooza’s mission is to offer innovative media services and a unique communications expertise. The company can be reached at: 250-788-537-894, and

The Voice of America reaches a global weekly audience of more than 187 million people in more than 40 languages. VOA programs are delivered on satellite, cable, shortwave, FM, medium wave, streaming audio and video, and more than 2,350 media outlets worldwide. VOA is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

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