GENEVA - Despite being a ‘late-comer’ in embracing the use of Information Communication Technology, Africa has embraced ICT tools that have put the continent on the right development path.
“Being late-comers in embracing, and indeed starting from a low base in creating information and communication technology sectors, ICT is nonetheless fundamentally transforming our nations and continent,” Kagame told the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 2009 Summit which opened in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.
Kagame said that since the October 2007 Connect Africa summit held in Kigali, investments in communications infrastructure across the continent have exceeded $ 8 billion.
“These billions of dollars in investment and returns in Africa are neither aid nor loans that lead to national debt traps,” Kagame told his audience.
In the Rwandan context, Kagame said that the country has registered a number of developments in the telecoms sector since it hosted the Connect Africa Summit.
He said over half a billion US dollars has so far been invested in communication infrastructure, 70 percent of which was private investment.
As a result, the President said the cost of communications has been reduced by 35 percent and the number of connections increased by 200 percent due to the rising investments.
“This remarkable progress in Africa and in our country is due to improving business environment, better policies, enhanced Public Private Partnership and increased efforts in skills development for our workforce,” the President said.
Kagame was among the key speakers at the 4-day meeting under the theme “Open Networks--Connected Minds.” The summit brought together different Heads of State, key players in the ICT sector and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Kagame said that huge investments in the sector have not only significantly reduced charges on communication by 30 percent on average, but also brought significant returns in billions of dollars to key investors.
He said growth of this sector has since significantly contributed to expansion of the nations’ tax bases, creation of small and medium enterprises and direct jobs.
“These new infrastructures are proving to be very powerful tools of regional integration as they link individual countries while connecting them to international gateways.
“This is vindication of our belief in the private-led growth and development, and in the role of ICT as an industry as well as a facilitator of other sectors.” Kagame told the Geneva meeting.
Among other things, Kagame cited the rising ICT industry as one of the major sectors making Africa an integral part of the global economy especially through improving the continents connectivity to other markets.
President Kagame observed that Africa continues to reform its institutions creating a more conducive investment climate as confirmed by the World Bank Group’s 2010 Doing Business Report.
The report shows that Africa’s investment climate is improving at a fast rate with Rwanda ranked as the top global reformer.
“We are gathered at the ITU Telecom World 2009 with the shared purpose of engaging in a dialogue to ensure that ICTs remain a focus for new economic and social development policies. I trust that we will approach this important task with innovative insights for practical ICT solutions.”
“In this respect, the emerging markets including Africa must be seen as ever growing market and as a part of many solutions and not as a burden, or as presenting many challenges.” Kagame concluded.