Zipline Is Revolutionizing Health Services In Rwanda with the help of 27-Year-Old, Abdoul Salam Nizeyimana

Rwanda is a landlocked East African country with a median age of 19, the country filled with a generation born 24 years after the genocide. The country has come a long way, the economy has grown seven-fold and the youths are filled with optimism and ambition. There’s a new future for young Rwandans who have dreams of becoming engineers, creatives, dreamers.

The past is also helping shape the future, thinkers like 27-Year-Old, Abdoul Salam Nizeyimana who lost his family (father, mother and two siblings) during the Rwandan civil is today leading a team of 20 of Rwandans working for the California-based drone startup, Zipline.

Zipline was founded by a team of tech innovators (Keenan Wyrobek, Keller Rinaudo, Peter Seid, Phu Nguyen, and William Hetzler) backed by VC heavyweights including Sequoia Capital in Silicon Valley. The company opened its first distribution center in a town located around the Southern province of Rwanda, called Muhanga approximately 45 km from Kigali the country’s capital.

Some of the biggest, most powerful technology companies in the world are still trying to figure out how to do this. But East Africa is showing them all the way. The work in Rwanda has shown the world what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand healthcare access with drones and help save lives, Keller Rinaudo, Zipline CEO and Co-founder explained in an interview in January 2018.

Zipline has completed more than 8,000 flights carrying about 15,000 units of blood to 21 hospitals in Rwanda’s western region. The company’s expecting to hear from the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority any day now for approval to start serving the eastern half of the country.

Even though the drones fly autonomously, there’s a surprising amount of work that goes into running a drone delivery operation. At Zipline’s distribution center, there are two main jobs: fulfillment operators, who package the requested blood; and flight operators, which is what Nizeyimana does. When an order comes in, he assembles the plane, packs the bags of blood inside and places it onto a launcher, which catapults the drone into the air. When the aircraft returns, a robotically controlled line catches the plane by its tail, after which two people disassemble the plane. It’s when things break, as they invariably do, that Nizeyimana seems most animated, hunched over the object of concern with a tool in hand. He says he falls asleep most nights thinking through the next thing he hopes to fix‘, Bloomberg reports.

Nizeyimana today is studying for grad school in robotics after being more conscious of the numerous possibilities awaiting him, he believes Rwanda will become the Singapore of Africa in the next decade and a half.

If I got another chance to live, would I want to use that chance of having a lot of beers, or buying cars? What should I use the second chance for? Serving the community and making an impact on other people’s lives is what makes sense for me, Nizeyimana told Bloomberg.

Rwanda’s recovery plan is yielding huge benefits for the country’s economy which according to experts is expected to grow by 7.2 per cent in 2018, a sharp contrast from what has been obtainable in previous years. The country has become a fertile land for investors is currently on the path to unprecedented growth.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.


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