Africa on the threshold of connected future – Kagame


President Kagame in a group photo after the third Smart Africa board meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday. (Village Urugwiro)

President Paul Kagame has said that the African continent is in the process of having a connected future with the ongoing efforts of pooling efforts and resources.

The President made the remarks, yesterday, while chairing the third Smart Africa board meeting on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The meeting was attended by Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Ibrahim Boubakar Keita of Mali, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, Rock Marc Kabore of Burkina Faso and Edward Ssekandi, vice-president of Uganda.

Kagame said the continent had already started out the journey towards having an integrated continent through initiatives such as broadband infrastructure and One Africa Network.

“Africa is on the threshold of a truly connected future. Pooling our efforts and committing to accelerate digital talent development, support innovation, expand and interconnect our broadband networks ably demonstrates that trend,” Kagame said.

Among the initiatives, the president noted were playing a role in connecting the continent was the One Area Network that makes it possible for citizens of Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda enjoy domestic calling rates from anywhere in the Northern Corridor Region.

“One Area Network has been a win-win for governments and the private sector, but most importantly, for the people,” Kagame said.

President Kagame commended fellow African leaders present for championing their respective flagship initiatives that are positioning Africa for the 4th industrial revolution.

Building on the success and experience of the One Network Area executed by the four member Northern Corridor countries of East Africa, the board took the decision to implement One Africa Network a move that will see calling rates across the entire continent reduce drastically.

At the meeting, President Kagame and board members present witnessed the signing of the Host Country Agreement by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Louise Mushikiwabo and Dr Hamadoun Touré, the executive secretary of Smart Africa.

Kigali was last year selected as the host of the Smart Africa Secretariat that is headed by the former International Telecommunications Union Secretary General, Dr Toure.

The agreement, signed yesterday, seals the creation of the Smart Africa Secretariat with its headquarters in Kigali.

‘Deal shows commitment’

In his remarks, Dr Touré said the signing of the agreement in just three weeks after the establishment of the office is a testimony of the dynamist, sense of urgency and commitment that leaders are placing on Smart Africa for the rapid development of the continent.

In a recent interview with The New Times, Youth and ICT minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana said the government was in the final stages of acquiring office space for the secretariat’s headquarters prior to commencement of its duties.

Among the top tasks awaiting Toure is to put together a core team who will be involved in running the daily operations and activities of the initiative.

The secretariat will be guided by the Smart Africa Manifesto adopted during the inaugural Transform Africa summit in 2013 that is hinged on five pillars; policy, access, e-Government, private sector development and sustainable development.

Among the targets spelled out in the manifesto is to put ICT at the centre of national socio-economic development agenda, improve access to ICTs especially broadband, improve accountability, efficiency and openness through ICT, to put the private sector first, and to leverage ICT to promote sustainable development.

Smart Africa has multiple flagship activities ranging from ICT industry development and smart cities to youth innovation, and job creation and digital economy to green economy and digital literacy.

The secretariat will also lead the pursuit of goals set out during last year’s Transform Africa Summit, including an ambitious commitment to mobilise over $300 billion worth of investments in ICT sector on the continent by 2020.