TAS2017: Political will key to digital integration


President Kagame poses for a group picture with fellow Heads of State and Delegated Officials. (Village Urugwiro)

President Paul Kagame and other Heads of State and Government attending the Transform Africa summit have emphasised the need for political will to enable the implementation of digital integration and rollout of initiatives.

The Heads of State and Government were speaking at a leaders’ summit at the ongoing Transform Africa summit.

President Kagame said the delay to scale up the One Area Network is not due to lack of technology or skills but to a lack of sense of urgency.

“We are really left behind by other regions of this world. I don’t think it’s because Africans are incapable of doing things the way we should or be where others are or even go beyond. We need to invest in infrastructure but we need to invest more in our political will and sense of urgency, starting with what we already have and what is possible within our means,” Kagame said.

The President said some players fail to understand the overall benefits of digital integration.

He said even when a number of East African member states began rolling out the One Area Network which enabled cheap voice calls within the region, some parties were hesitant largely due to assumptions that they would lose out on revenue.

“Some people genuinely feel that we are going to lose while others were gaining which could have been a result of lack of understanding. In actual fact everyone benefits, be it those who have made investments in these technologies, be it the ordinary citizens, the private sector, everybody benefits,” Kagame explained.

“Now that we have about five or six countries working together in this region, we have Rwanda and Gabon and in West Africa it is also happening we probably need to go step by step. Already now that some things are happening, there is hope,” he added.

Under the One Area Network, making transnational calls to and from is not charged as international but has the same charges as local making it affordable for citizens across countries to get in touch.

A participant asks a question during a session at the summit yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)

Previously, making calls between member countries was often more expensive than calling Europe, America or Asia despite the geographical proximity.

In the East African region alone, the initiative had by 2016 seen a minimum 400 per cent increase in the volume of calls, a direct benefit to EAC citizens and African businesses operating across EAC borders.

On the concerns that increased adoption of technology could widen divides rather than bridge them, the President said that it largely involves politics.

He said good politics that is considerate of gender equality and inclusion would ensure that technology adoption would foster equity.

Zambian Vice-President Inonge Wina reiterated Kagame’s sentiments, saying governments and private sector partners should have the will to work together with the greater goal in mind.

Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada said technology adoption should be with a sense of urgency as Africa was already lagging behind in previous digital revolutions.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta warned that failure to foster cooperation among African countries risked missing out on opportunities  availed by technology adoption as has happened in the past.

The Transform Africa leaders’ summit was attended by President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, President Ismail Guelleh of Djibouti, Zambian Vice-President Wina, Gabonese Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea Vicente Ehate Tomi, and Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada.