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7 African presidents give views on ICT development

October 30, 2013  »  ICT PolicyNo Comment

All eyes have been on Rwanda this week as Kigali hosts 1,200+ delegates and 7 heads of state at the Transform Africa Summit 2013. Up for discussion between leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs are Africa’s future with ICT and how the private sector can spur advancement.

A culture shift is needed to create youth who feel empowered to change their communities. A strong foundation for Africa’s future in ICT is needed – from everyone including youth and government. Governments need to take action and set firm ICT goals. The private sector needs to invest in technology that is inspired from within Africa. Most importantly, action is needed instead of rhetoric that is often found when high-ranking stakeholders gather.

From hundreds of mentions of #TransformAfrica2013 we have captured key notes of interest from the first two days of the event:

  • Youth: Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT urged young people to use ICT to get advanced knowledge. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta displayed a similar sentiment. Rwandan President Paul Kagame supported youth; he visited top junior programmers from all provinces.
  • ITU Sec. General Dr. Hamadou Toure: $55 billion has been invested in #ICT in #Africa & expected to reach $70 billion. At the end of 2007, Internet penetration in Africa was 3.9%, at the end of 2013 it’ll be over 16%. In 2007, there were 32 countries that had developed their National ICT Strategies. Today, there are 48. Look at things like “if Africa has 10% mobile phone penetration, then it has 90% opportunity.” ICT isn’t bound by borders. Youth unemployment and wealth creation can be solved with ICT. There needs to be a shift from mobile revolution to broadband revolution.
  • Rwanda Minister of Youth & ICT: We have to change the way we see ICT – not as a tool but as an environment. To advance we need modernized services, with the private sector first, then connected rural areas, education & innovation, and affordability.
  • Rwanda: 50% of Rwandans have internet access (RURA). LTE services were trialed at the event, reaching speeds of 90Mbps (vs. 0.5Mbps for 3G). Rwandapedia, a digital story of Rwanda’s development was launched. Bandwidth capacity is 25x higher than in 2007. More than 5,000km of fibre optic cables are now in place. 200,000 children across 400+ primary schools have laptops (OLPC). Over the last six years, Rwanda’s mobile penetration came from less than 10% to 65%. Of 208 mobile money deployments globally, East Africa leads with more than 40%.
  • SMART Africa Manifesto:5 pillars – ICT at the center of African development strategy, improve access to broadband using PPPs, improve accountability and openness, have the private sector drive economic transformation, use ICTs for sustainable development.
  • Misc. Advice: ICT ministries should take the lead and set KPIs for other ministries in order to facilitate digital revolution. Need more confidence in IT skills. Private and public sectors can together develop a country. Localized content is only possible if available in local languages. More than just universities should produce content. Government should support infrastructure and e-services to stimulate demand while the private sector develops solutions and invests. Africa needs to become more self-reliant (ie. don’t rely on international development). Only Africans can transform Africa, but they need to take lessons learned from others. Dreams of the people are more important than dreams of the presidents. Every African nation has its own story and problems, and solution that fit its community. Need paradigm shift – school system in Africa needs to create job creators not job seekers.

In a much anticpated session, President Paul Kagame along with the Presidents of Uganda, Burkina Faso, Gabon, South Sudan, Kenya and Mali discussed how, with regional cooperation, ICT can enable development and soon allow Africa to lead at the global stage. Needless to say, the speeches by the seven presidents were a huge draw, highlighted by inspirational words from Rwanda’s “digital president” and captivating delivery from Uganda’s President Museveni who connected with the audience through humor.

Each leader’s views on ICT (sourced using #TransformAfrica2013) are summarized below. Each president has a unique approach to ICT development, but all outwardly profess that growing the ICT sector remains a priority.

  • Paul Kagame (Rwanda): The Digital Revolution that has the power to transform societies is already underway. Success belongs to those who innovate & seize available opportunities. We must understand how technology is opening up new opportunities. We want equip African youth with technology to leap-frog to where the rest of the world is. Success belongs to those who innovate and seize available opportunities. Investing in ICT is not a luxury but a necessity. In Rwanda we look at ICTs as a utility like the same way we do with water, electricity. It’s not just about making commitments, but about giving ICT its rightful place. Earmarking investment for ICT is not enough, we have to decide that we are going to do it.

  • Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya): Broadband gives ability to leapfrog & catch up with the world; brings minds, innovation & create opportunities. The railways of yesterday is broadband today. It will create opportunities. ICTs can be used to reduce corruption and enhance security. The greatest challenge that we have is that we have many competing interests & ICT is relegated to back burner. We must prioritize ICT and its relevance to transformation. ICT removes all barriers, regional, ethnicity…and create opportunities for us to develop.
  • Ali Bongo (Gabon): ICT now is the priority of priorities. For every 10% increase in broadband, we realize 1.3% increase in GDP. African countries should unite to make ICT investments possible. OLPC is an important project in education; it should be extended to the rest of Africa. ICT offers numerous opportunities (e-government, e-health, e-education).
  • Ibrahim Keita (Mali): Old minds can also contribute to innovation. When political will is there, you can move mountains. We are lucid, not asleep when it comes to how ICT can lead to rapid development.
  • Salva Kiir (South Sudan): South Sudan must be a stable and prosperous country by 2040. South Sudan will have a fibre cable connection through Kenya. There will soon be a fifth mobile operator in the country. By creating jobs you change the life of the people – and ICTs can facilitate this. Models for innovation in South Sudan include M-Pesa and Ushahidi. Electrification and Education are top priorities for S.Sudan, and will both support and be supported by ICT. Infrastructural gaps being experienced in the 2-year-old state will be addressed soon.
  • Blaise Campaore (Burkina Faso): Gave thoughts on SMART Africa manifesto. Enthusiasm of African leaders like Kagame will make the ICT transformation possible.
  • Yoweri Museveni (Uganda): ICT helps in identifying persons, storing & retrieving information especially in cases of multiple voting. ICT must support the development of other sectors such as agriculture. You can’t just sit in office and communicate efficiently using smartphones. Broadband exists in 32 towns out of 212 in Uganda. There are 6m smartphone users (20% of population).

Additional resources:
Wired UK: “A report released today by the African Development Bank shows that the availability and affordability of technology is still preventing the widespread internet adoption Africa needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of growing a globally competitive knowledge economy.”

Republic of Rwanda: “Six Heads of States join President Kagame to discuss how ICT will drive Africa’s development”, “Single customs territory to reduce transport time from Mombasa to Kigali to 8 days from 21”, “Participants discuss the continents ICT progress and the Smart Africa Manifesto at Day 1 of Transform Africa”

The New Times: “Kigali Summit paves way for regional integration“, “Transform Africa Summit: Continent looks to digital future

YouTube: 14 videos from Transform Africa, including sessions from Days 1 & 2.

TransformAfrica website: Schedule, media, documents, etc.

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