The second Transform Africa summit concluded on a high note with an ambitious commitment to mobilise over $300 billion worth of investments in the ICT sector on the continent by 2020.
The three-day summit which ended yesterday attracted over 2,500 delegates from over 80 countries. The high level meeting attracted about 850 ICT corporations and startups from around the globe.
The summit was also attended by government representatives and development partners from across the world.
Under the theme ‘Accelerating Digital Innovation’, the forum was a follow-up of the inaugural summit held in 2013 in Kigali.
In line with the meeting’s theme, the delegates committed to hitting a target of $300 billion of investments in Africa’s ICT projects.
This, they said in a declaration read by Rwanda’s Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, will be part of the implementation of the Smart Africa Manifesto adopted in the previous summit.
Figures presented at the summit indicate that investments in ICT in Africa were estimated at around $70 billion between 2007 and 2013 when the first Transform Africa Summit was held in Kigali.
Governments present also committed to creating a conducive environment for the development of the ICT sector on the continent to attract investments and pursuit of opportunities.
Although the target seems ambitious, the secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Houlin Zhao, said it was achievable going by the rate of ICT adoption on the continent.
Zhao was speaking on the last day of the summit alongside President Paul Kagame.
He gave an example of the pace of internet adoption on the continent in the last decade as well as adoption of technology in the various sectors as proof that the continent had the necessary potential.
“Africa is the fastest growing continent and has achieved a lot in the ICT sector. The revolution has the potential to change lives, create wealth and achieve digital and financial inclusion,” Zhao said.
Going forward, he advised that efforts need to be put in place to create an enabling environment to seize the sector’s capacity in aspects such as to adding value to exports, fostering employment and entrepreneurship and facilitating effective use of resources.
“Small and medium enterprises are an integral part of the future of the sector,” the ITU boss said.
To achieve the targets, he added, it was time to intervene in mitigating the risk factors in the ICT investments.
Stakeholders are, however, upbeat about the sector’s potential in the continent based on the progress so far achieved.
Minister Nsengimana said the success and impact of initiatives such as the One Network Area that has facilitated the reduction of communication cost in the Northern Corridor had boosted confidence in the potential of the sector.
The minister announced that Rwanda had availed $1 million for the Smart Africa Secretariat that is to oversee the attainment of the targets.
“We will not tire; we won’t lose focus until we have delivered on the promise of a brighter future for our people,” Nsengimana promised.
Continued partnership between the private and public sectors was also emphasised by a number of panelists as a way forward for the continued progress in digitisation and IT adoption.
Private sector’s take
Members of the private sector present also made commitments to further make investments as it would increase their opportunities and relevance in the African market.
Speaking at a panelist session, Cynthia Gordon, the executive vice president of Millicom Group, the parent company of Tigo Rwanda, said the private sector was ready to make commitments as well as partner with the Government to have effective strategies and business models.
She encouraged her fellow private sector players to take advantage of the opportunities in the African digital market.
Shiletsi Makhofane, the head of government and industrial relations at Ericsson, said the timing was right for the continent to achieve milestones and significant progress as there were massive opportunities for international corporations and emerging enterprises.
“Now that we have the commitment, plans and targets, it is time to implement them and turn them into tangible projects,” Makhofane said.
Makhofane’s firm, in partnership with a local firm, AirClerk Limited, is rolling out a cashless payment solution for public transport.
He advised that by aligning themselves to government agenda and plans, corporations stand large opportunities in the African market.
Among the emerging issues that the summit agreed require attention in the process of implementing the Smart Africa manifesto include regulatory framework to improve investments and operations in the sector.
Shortage of capital and skilled labour, cyber security and low volumes of local content were the other concerns cited.