Thousands of learners have run into trouble after the government terminated a contract with Positivo BGH — a company that was in 2015 contracted to supply laptops on credit— over quality concerns, Rwanda Today has learnt.
Under the agreement signed in 2014, Positivo BGH was to supply 150,000 computers annually at the cost of Rwf36 billion.
The laptops were not only meant for computer lessons but to also serve other ICT-related purposes in the government. For five years, government-sponsored students, over 530 schools and local government officials had been provided with laptops on a ordable terms.
The end goal was to “increase school infrastructure and access to adequate equipment including modern laboratories and modern learning materials,” as stated in the National Transformation Strategy which ends in 2024.
In 2017, the then Ministry of ICT, Philbert Nsengimana, told parliament that the Ministry of Education could not raise all the funds required, even with the support of other stakeholders, forcing the government to sign the deal with Positivo BH to supply the laptops on credit.
In the end, the government and Positivo BGH had to renegotiate the deal, subsequently reducing the number of new computers manufactured each year from 150,000 to 40,000.
The situation worsened in 2020 when the agreement expired and was not renewed, leaving university students who had applied for computer loans, stranded. Students say this has heavily impacted their academic performance.
“My academic performance would have been much better if I had a laptop. Besides, my computer and digital skills are very limited. There is a limited number of computer rooms and Internet on the campus,” said Justin Sibomana, a third-year student at the University of Rwanda.
Students who took up the laptop loans pay $400 after finishing their studies and getting jobs. The loaning scheme abruptly ended in 2019. Students were told it would resume but it never was.
University officials say the agreement was ended because the quality of the laptops was questionable and that institutions in charge are looking for other partners with preferable quality.
Managing director of Positivo BGH Africa, however, told Rwanda Today that the company has no quality challenges and that they were negotiating to renew the agreement with the government.
“All our products are certified with international quality standards. We produce more than 5 million units of many different electronic products in our own factories in Latin America and Africa, as we have been doing for over 100 years.’’
‘‘We manufacture, distribute, and sell not only our own brands but also well-known international brands, meeting all quality requirements,” Stephen Newton, Managing Director of Positivo BGH Africa.
He added: “In Rwanda, we have produced and delivered to the government over 120,000 devices for education and offices since the signing of the deal. We are focused on continuing to help to contribute to digital literacy in Latin America and Africa markets.”
The Ministry of ICT directed Rwanda Today to Rwanda Information Society Authority when asked for a comment, who had not responded by press time.