“The President of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame, officially opened the 5th Transform Africa Summit held at the Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda from 14 – 17 May 2019. The President was accompanied by H.E Uhuru Kenyatta and H.E Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the leaders of Kenya and Mali respectively. The presidents started their day with a guided tour of the exhibition area where different countries and partners had exhibited their solutions and products.”
The Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union, Houlin Zhao addressed the guests present and he was followed by Madhusudhan Mysore, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman, Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS) and Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank Vice President for Africa. The World Bank, Tata Communications Transformation Services, the government of Kenya and ADS are the key sponsors of this year’s Transform Africa Summit.
There was quite some excitement in the auditorium when Sofia, the Humanoid Robot made a grand entrance and briefly spoke to the guests, many of whom had been anxious to finally meet her. It was impressive to see a robot having a conversion with a human being complete with human-like gestures. Sofia promised to be more available for the next day’s afternoon session.
In his key note address, President Paul Kagame commenced his speech by recognising the new Director-General, Lacina Koné and wished him success in his new responsibility after taking over from Dr Hamadou Toure who he thanked for his selfless contribution towards the original Smart Africa. “We are in the era of the digital economy. Remaining behind is not an option anymore for Africa. It never was, but we thought or acted like it was,” said Pres. Kagame.
He stressed the fact that economic transformation and prosperity are hinged on the mastery of technology and that now is the time to build the necessary infrastructure and skills in Africa. The President emphasized the need for collaboration of African countries as the only way to navigate the complex global dynamics role faced by the continent. “Africa can only protect our peoples’ interests and increase the size of our market through integration and cooperation,” he added.
President Kagame also clarified that digital transformation does not mean neglecting traditional manufacturing but that Africa should be competitive in both. He reminded the gathering that the African Continental Free Trade Area has now entered force and is aimed at keeping Africa’s industrialisation and technology agendas in close alignment. He concluded his address by announcing that the next host for the 6th Transform Africa Summit in 2020 will be the Republic of Guinea and thanked H.E President Alpha Condé for his strong support for Smart Africa.
The leaders’ summit on boosting Africa’s digital economy followed where there was general consensus that African governments, businesses and individuals must work together in order to adapt to the new reality of technology as a cornerstone of our daily lives. President Uhuru Kenyatta mentioned that his government is changing the school curriculum to make people fit and ready for the next jobs that will come from digital technologies.
There were special interventions by Dr Amani AbouZeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, AU Commission who said, “All technical challenges have technical solutions but we need the will and capacity to find them.” The Secretary General of UNCTAD, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi called on African governments to support startups just like they are doing for foreign investors.
There was a session on policy harmonization as a tool for bridging the digital gap in Africa where discussion on how mobile phones for example, have done a lot to bridge the digital gap on the continent. Participants were reminded not to forget that despite the progress covered, there still exists a discrepancy between the different demographics as far as access to information technology is concerned.
The Kenyan government co-organised the session on Business in the Digital Economy and how the adoption of ICT has facilitated the expansion of markets and enabled the development of new products and services, thereby transforming the way in which existing products and services are able to be delivered. The conversation revolved around the opportunities and constraints of doing business in the digital economy and how a Single Digital Market for Africa can be achieved.
The day’s deliberations would have been incomplete without a session on content focusing on telling the African Story. There is an outcry on how Africa has for long remained silent as others told her story for her often getting wrong in the process. It was agreed that there is an urgent need to harness African information, digitize it and disseminate it to our people in this digital era and make it relevant to our own development.
To push for the boosting of Africa’s digital economy, we’ll need all hands on deck. But most importantly, we’ll need a healthy life. The day was concluded by Kigali Night Run, the run for fun segment of Kigali International Marathon.
Source: Smart Africa Alliance