Push to mainstream technology in businesses as regional industry dialogue opens in Kigali

(L-R) Mike Yeh from MICROSOFT, Steven Mutabazi from RDB and Smart Africa Advisor Jean Philbert nsengimana during a panel discussion. Courtesy

To collectively succeed in ensuring that smart technologies boost the continental development agenda, governments and businesses must work together, an official emphasised at the beginning of the COMESA CONNECT Industry Dialogue that started in Kigali on Thursday.

The two-day event held under the theme “Smart Technologies, Sustainable Industries” seeks to structure strategic efforts towards harnessing today’s digital solutions to respond to the needs of industries in the region.

Dr. Amany Asfour, the COMESA Business Council Chairperson, said: "to collectively succeed, governments and businesses must work together for our bigger agenda of the sustainable development goals, starting with the ending of poverty."

Technology, she stressed, is very important to push the agenda for youth empowerment, and employment, among others.

"We have lagged behind but now is the time for us all to act. We all; the academia, the media, and all others need to have one agenda."

Stephen Ruzibiza, the PSF Chief Executive, was emphatic while noting that "we can no longer" do without smart technologies.

"We have to be active in terms of buying into these new technologies. Travel checks have disappeared; ATMs are also being phased out. Robots are coming in and the sustainability of businesses is doing well."

Organisers of the event say that today's socio- economic fabric is interwoven with technology.

Digital transformation, it is said, is no longer a space to be in, as we are already there and what actually matters now is how businesses, customers and consumers harness technology to prepare for new markets, protect existing innovations and set the trends for newer innovative methods of doing business.

According to the COMESA Secretariat, technology services are no longer perceived as a specialized sector, but considered as an all-inclusive, cross cutting component of high impact, high demand businesses.

Create digital skills

According to Mike Yeh, the MICROSOFT Assistant General Counsel Middle East and Africa, the power of computing will continue and the challenge for governments  and countries is "how do we nevigate data, secure data?"

Yeh advises African governments not to get fixated on the idea of having mega data centres established on their territories as this is not the real deal when it comes to real opportunities.

"Data centres are just infrastructure. Strategic opportunities for Africa are not in data centres but in building solutions. You can build a solution for Rwanda and sell it elsewhere."

"You also need to think hard on how you create the digital skills."

Yeh said it is important to help grow entrepreneurs or small companies that develop citizen services that can also be sold to other countries.

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