Transform Africa Summit Highlights

The Transform Africa Summit, held in Kigali, Rwanda on the 7th-10th of May 2018, brought together African leaders, private sector players, representatives of development partners that are active the ICT field, among others.

The Transform Africa Economic Forum, held on the first day of the Summit, is a high level platform for discussing the disruptive but also the enabling and strategic role of ICT for the rapid transformation of Africa by Smart Africa, the Government of Rwanda, AfDB, Econet Wireless, Afro Champions and UNDP.

The Transform Africa Summit is the Smart Africa flagship event. This year’s theme is ‘Accelerating Africa’s Single Digital Market’. The Summit is led by the Smart Africa Alliance, which is, according to the Smart Africa website, “a framework for implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the SMART Africa Manifesto, designed to make it actionable. Currently, the Alliance is a partnership bringing together all African countries adhering to the Manifesto represented by the AU, the ITU, World Bank, AfDB, ECA, the GSMA, ICANN and the Private Sector.” The Smart Africa manifesto is a document by 7 African Heads of States in which they committed to provide leadership in accelerating socio-economic development through ICT’s.

Transform Africa Highlights:

The Summit had a variety of highlights and exciting conversations. Rwandan president Paul Kagame emphasized the importance of African investment in Africa, rather than investing in Western influences. He says Africa can prosper if Africans collaborate on new ways of shaping, accelerating, and sustaining Africa’s on-going digital revolution.

“We are not poor, not at all.” Says Kagame. “The issue is more the mindset that it is normal to use our money for consumption while we leave strategic long-term investing to others. It means that no matter how much we earn; we would remain poor.”

He continues, “We should not only aim at high-end technology and innovation but also create a dynamism that goes back and addresses the lower end that affects the majority of our people; how to bridge the gap that will continuously allow us to advance and have a future that we want.”

One of the conversations between Heads of States, private sector business leaders and executives of international organizations revolved around creating a single digital market for Africa. There were a series of plenaries held to discuss a road map to achieve this, focusing on investments, infrastructure, skills gap and decentralized regulatory policies across the continent. Dr. Jared Leigh Cohon, President Emeritus & University Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering & Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, argues that Africa should be prioritising technical skills and Rwanda is well placed to enhance the campaign equipping the human capital.

The youth is central the advancement of a single digital market. “Africa is very dynamic with the new technologies and infrastructure but it may not be able to achieve the single digital market without involving young entrepreneurs,” says Dr. MukhisaKituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Summit also included a focus on empowering women by highlighting programs women’s and girls can participate in to empower them in the digital economy.

The Summit held the first Transform Africa Economic Forum, a Government to Business engagement where attending Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries engaged with a targeted audience of business leaders and high net worth investors on investment opportunities and areas of collaboration.

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