Editorial: Private sector key to achieving the ICT agenda

The third edition of Transform Africa summit closed in Kigali on Friday with many delegates upbeat that the meeting had galvanised leaders’ commitment to employ ICTs to accelerate the continent’s anti-poverty and growth efforts.

As the summit, held under the banner ‘Smart Cities’, came to an end, organisers announced that the number of countries that had joined the Smart Africa Alliance had grown to 22, four of them (Sao Tome and Principe, Tunisia, South Africa, and Cameroon) having come on board in the course of the summit.

At the gathering, which attracted some 4000 delegates from 80 countries, including about 300 mayors, participants witnessed the clinching of major deals designed to boost the push toward an ICT-enabled transformation in different African countries, which totaled up to US$55 million.

There were also a couple of firsts, including the convening of the inaugural Smart Africa Women’s Summit, and the crowning of 2017 Ms Geek Africa, both initiatives seeking to bridge the gender digital divide.

Previously, Ms Geek contests were only organised at the national level in Rwanda, but the fact the initiative has now gone continental goes to explain how ICT solutions are increasingly becoming an integral part of the development agenda across Africa.

Congratulations to this year’s winners!

Going forward, it is imperative that this effort is not only spearheaded by governments but the industry as well. There is need for the private sector across the continent to scale up their role in promoting usage of ICT and digital solutions in addressing contemporary socioeconomic challenges.

From experience, startup applications that have received the backing of businesses through funding have impressed, many impacting the daily livelihoods of the people.

From improving transport, health care and education systems to managing livestock, inventory and payments, young Rwandan innovators are leaving a mark on the country’s development effort.

Importantly, initiatives like the Ms Geek contests have placed young women at the heart of these innovations. It is, therefore, worthwhile and heartening that the Ms Geek initiative has gone continental as it will see more young women pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) – a key objective of the initiative – subsequently playing a crucial part in the development of their countries.

ICT is a cross-cutting issue and serves as an enabler for advancement of any sector. But for that to happen there is need to adopt a multisectoral approach as far as the ICT field is concerned. In particular, the industry has an important role to play. This can be done through equity investing or supporting such initiatives as Ms Geek competition, among others.