This week I am in Rwanda, land of a thousand hills, on another gruelling but fun business trip to Africa. It is a fascinating and immensely beautiful country with a dark past due to the genocide (which killed over 1 million Tutsis) in the 1990s. In spite of this, everywhere there are signs of progress, confirmed by the shiny new buildings and roads. Yet there is more. A palpable sense of hope and optimism hangs in the air here. It’s youthful population is full of energy and potential waiting to be tapped as Rwandans work together to build a bright, peaceful and prosperous future.

The highlight of my trip to Rwanda, has been my visit to the Zipline drone port at Muhanga, about 1 hour’s drive outside of Kigali. It has been a dream of mine for several years to visit Zipline, which is a company which in many ways embodies the vibrant, rising spirit of the new Rwanda. Zipline uses drones, affectionately called Zips, to deliver vital medical supplies, such as blood and medicine, to places where it is needed most in Rwanda. It is a perfect marriage between aerospace and healthcare.

While at Muhanga I had the chance to see up-close Zipline’s operation in action. From the receipt of orders sent by health facilities across western Rwanda (as far as away as the border with Congo – almost 80km’s away), to the preparation of the Zips, as well as their awe-inspiring launch and recovery. All done by a very capable and highly skilled, not to mention friendly, team of Rwandans, who take great pride in working at Zipline!

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What most impressed me was how the Zips have evolved over the years. Starting from the Quail to the Robin to the current Sparrow model. This teaches many a lessons on modularity and continuous improvement starting from a simplified minimal viable product and then innovating to perfection. Equally inspiring, is Zipline’s careful attention to every operational detail to ensure the efficient launch of every Zip, down to the last second, which is a master class in operational efficiency.   

So far Zipline has made over 229 000 commercial deliveries, with as many as 234 deliveries in a single day. To put that in perspective, that is roughly one Zip being launched every 6 mins for 24 hours straight! Rwanda and Africa definitely need more disruptive innovations like Zipline’s drone delivery of medical supplies. It was a truly inspiring experience that I will never forget! Thanks for stopping by. As always feel free to leave a comment below.

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