Transform Africa Summit, the flagship event for Smart Africa was opened yesterday in Kigali, Rwanda at the Kigali Convention Centre. The annual forum brings together global and regional leaders from government, business and international organisations to collaborate on new ways of shaping, accelerating and sustaining Africa’s digital revolution. This year’s event, the fifth of its kind started with a reminder that Africa is a continent with over 60% of its population being under 25 years, a figure that is expected to double by 2050.
The Director General of Smart Africa, Lacina Kone welcomed the guests to Rwanda and to the Summit and thanked them for sending a strong signal of their commitment to Africa’s digital agenda. He stressed that technology can help us reach the sustainable development agenda that we all aspire to achieve. “We are here because we believe we can a shared vision of advancing the continent’s digital agenda,” he added. He also expressed deep gratitude to the President of the Republic of Rwanda, President Paul Kagame who is the Chairman of the Smart Africa.
In her speech, the Rwandan Minister of ICT and Innovation, Hon. Paula Ingabire thanked the lead partners for this year’s summit; the Government of Kenya, World Bank, Tata Communications and ADS for being generous with their time and resources. She also commended the increasing willingness by investors to inject resources into African tech start-ups with investments shooting past the billion – dollar mark last year instead of the previous expectation of 2020.
She also emphasised the need to create an ecosystem that allows African innovators to achieve full potential. She concluded by saying that the Startup Africa journey is one that is timely and requires governments to collaborate and put in place conducive parameters that facilitate innovation processes for young people from ideation to prototyping and final production.
he 2nd Transform Africa Economic Forum was officially opened by the Rt. Hon. Dr. Edward Ngirente, the Prime Minister of Rwanda who also begun by welcoming the guests to Rwanda. In his remarks, he reiterated the government’s commitment towards digital literacy for all youth by 2024 with the objective of achieving digital literacy of at least 60% among adults.
He concluded by saying, “Smart Africa enjoys a strong political will to change what has been the status quo for a long time. In this regard, I wish to reiterate the commitment of the Government of Rwanda to the realization of Smart Africa’s vision.”
During the first session on the role of digital economy in fast tracking Pan African Integration moderated by BCC’s Lerato Mbele – Roberts, Fatoumata Ba, the Chief Executive Officer of Jango called on Heads of State and government, business leaders and the private sector to drive change for the continent. She wondered why India with the same population as Africa attracts more venture capital for example.
In the second session on investing in Africa, Opportunities and Challenges, Troy Stremler, CEO Newdea emphasised the need for creation of the right business environment. “Money is not the issue. In fact, we just heard that there is 1.2 trillion dollars sitting in idle,” he said.
When it came to strengthening innovation ecosystems in Africa, Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon urged the participants to simply work with those countries whose governments are already open to working to with entrepreneurs with ideas instead of waiting for all countries to get on board. Abdou Kane the CEO of WAW telecom pointed out that local companies understand their countries better than anyone else.
In order to build strong innovation ecosystems, Dr. Armen Orujyan, Founding CEO, FAST argues that transportation, energy and communication facilities among other things are very important. Mozilla Foundation’s Chief Innovation Officer Katharina Borchert, reminded the guests that, “Not all developers are business people. Get a team that knows how to build a business not software only.” She also expressed her excitement about the mobile money revolution in Africa which is quite different from Germany where they still carry a lot of cash.
Signing of MOUs
The Smart Africa Secretariat signed a couple of Memorandums of Understanding starting with WAZIUP e.V. The partnership brings together 24 Africa countries and 30 private sector members committed to the Smart Africa Manifesto. Under this MOU, Smart Africa and WAZIUP e.V will collaborate to engage and support tech oriented entrepreneurs and start-ups across Africa. WAZIUP is currently providing support for start-ups and entrepreneurs in Senegal, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Burkina Faso with plans to expand to 11 more Africa countries.
Another MOU was signed with IMARSAT, the leading global mobile satellite communications provider. It seeks to promote the adoption by Smart Africa member nations of secure, electronic ID enabled interoperable digital platform as a key enabler to accelerate the digitisation of Smart Africa nations’ economies.
Tactis, a French consulting firm and Smart Africa, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to covering the co-management and the mutual administration of the Do4Africa platform. Do4Africa or Digital Observation for Africa is a platform that identifies and lists innovative and digital projects in Africa.