According to Shakila K. Umutoni, a PR officer at Imagine We, “the reading culture in Rwanda is pretty low in due part because Rwanda has a culture of oral storytelling. But the lack of a reading culture has translated into low literacy rates. National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda found that only 18% of Primary Level Three were reading at their standard level and only 6% were exceeding it.”
To be fair, this problem is not only perculiar to Rwanda. It ravages the whole of Africa. But then, it lifts our spirit to see founders who have decided to leverage technology to improve this culture. Think of what Booklify is doing in Nigeria.
Dominique Uwase Alonga who founded Imagine We “found a gap between her love of reading books and the power it had on her own growth with the limited venues available to provide such books with content she could relate to. So with her idea to promote literacy through reading as well as encouraging budding writers, she pitched to Tigo Reach for Change contest and won her first grant.”
We have always heard a quote which diminishes our reading culture in the continent saying, “if you want to hide something from an African put in the book”. But how exactly is this startup disproving this? providing books for young readers.
Imagine We have donated more than 2000 books to 13 different local organizations and schools. They have even gone farther by publishing literature that Africans can identify with, that showcases the diversity and complexity of Rwandans and Africans, as well as give a platform to Rwandan and African authors. Truly, I would say that the startup is doing the best in its capacity to turn Africans to great readers.
How have they fared since the beginning?
Well, it is a thing to want to make a change. While it is another to make that change, and acquire the resources to make more changes. The startup isn’t deficient in this aspect also. According to Shakila, it has “made significant strides in two years operating. It has set up an independent publishing house with 4 authors published, and over 2000 books sold in ten months alone in Rwanda. Among its other operations like the co-working space it manages, Imagine We has made a profit of $4000 in a year.”
So far, grants amounting to $30,000 have been won. And they are currently employing the publishing house business model of selling its publications and renting out co-working space. The startup revenue stream comes from the paid publications and the events they host in our space plus the co-working space rent.
The startup which would pitch at the seedstars Kigali event sees it as a great opportunity to share their vision, and a great shot to get funding that would skyrocket many of their projects here and spread their work beyond Rwandan borders.
So in 5 years, or less, Imagine We hopes to set up a hub for literary arts that attracts talented writers and readers from all over the continent. They aim to be a platform that shares the stories that preserve our culture but also leap forward to reflect 21st century Africa in all its diversity.
Nothing in the world is without challenges. And same is true for the EdTech industry which Imagine We is trying to impact. The main challenge they are facing in the EdTech industry is the “reticence for many to take up new technology such as digitising their content and questioning how sustainable it is when basic infrastructure like electricity has not fully covered Rwanda. There is also limited financial support for start-ups that don’t have a quick return.”
It now crystal clear how much Imagine We has done to savage what’s left of the reading culture in Africa. So far, I’d say they have done quite an excellent job. With the right support, they would surely end up making in a very great impact in the continent. You want to know the secret behind their success? I’d tell you. The TEAM.
The recipe for Imagine We’s success has been a team culture that is passionate about their work, a relentless work ethic and supporting each other. Much of our success has been contributed to a community that has come out to support us as well” – Shakila K. Umutoni, PR Officer, Imagine We.