African countries have a better chance to benefit from the digital revolution through collaborating as opposed to working as separate entities, Heads of State attending the Transform Africa Summit have said.
The summit, which opened in Kigali yesterday, was attended by Presidents Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali.
Speaking at the opening of the two-day summit, President Kagame said that collaboration was a sure way to navigate through the complex global dynamics in regards to the digital agenda.
He said that it would be wise to steer away from the tendencies that have often divided the continent.
“Africa can only protect our peoples’ interests and increase the size of our market, through integration and cooperation,” he said.
As a united front, Kagame said that the cooperation could be best exhibited in aspects such as harmonising laws and regulation as well as joint efforts in availing infrastructure resources.
“This is especially the case when it comes to harmonising laws and regulations, and ensuring that Africa’s ICT infrastructure is managed in a sensible way,” he said.
The emergence of a common African agenda on ICTs, he said, should not be a source of worry to anyone as it benefits both Africa and its partners globally.
The President added that with the African Continental Free Trade Area now in force, the continent ought to keep industrialisation and technology agendas in close alignment to make the best of both trends.
Kagame also challenged the youth and other stakeholders to make the most of the opportunities availed by digital technologies to advance their own economies.
“At the same time, let’s not be empty vessels, using broadband internet merely to consume the content and ideas produced by others. We are innovators and thinkers. We have our own products to sell. We have our own stories to tell,” he said.
On his part, President Kenyatta said that the cooperation should also be evident in preparing African people to reap from the dividends of internet connectivity.
Among avenues to do this, he said, was reviewing education curricula so that the skills that are being imparted among young people are relevant to the needs of a digital economy.
“There is need to break down barriers for Africa to take full advantage of our digital future,” he said.
Malian President Boubacar Keïta said that innovation and digital economy can, among other impacts, improve people’s living conditions by easing trade across borders.
World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure, Makhtar Diop, said that unity also ought to be reflected by creating avenues to learn from each other as different countries spearhead different initiatives.
Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), called on African governments to provide the same kind of support they extend to foreign investors, including subsidies, to local start-ups.
Meanwhile, later in the day, President Kagame chaired the Smart Africa Board Meeting where he said that the organisation has since grown with the membership of Ethiopia and Sierra Leone bringing member states to 26. Kagame is the Chair of the Board of Directors of Smart Africa.
The 5th edition of the Transform Africa Summit closes today and has convened about 4000 delegates.
The two-day gathering, was preceded by the second Economic Forum of the annual summit.