President Paul Kagame said embracing information communication and technology should be coupled with investments in capital markets and good governance which promotes civil participation and human rights.
President Kagame was yesterday speaking at the formal opening of the ongoing World Economic Forum for Africa which concludes today in Kigali.
He was speaking alongside co-chairs of the summit Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB); Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, and Graça Machel, Founder, Foundation for Community Development (FDC), Mozambique, and a co-chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa.
Kagame said, though the transformative power of ICT was at the core of development, ICT alone cannot bring the desired transformation in Africa and should be applied in a bigger context.
“The transformative power of information and technology is at the core. But ICT’s are not a magic bullet, there is a bigger context,” Kagame said.
Capital markets, the President said, would bring in major institutional investors who would invest in infrastructure and avail capital required for growth.
“Boutique investing is important but Africa needs scale. That means building deep and efficient capital markets that enable institutional investors such as pension funds to achieve stable and reliable returns by investing in African infrastructure and businesses. We need to be thinking even bigger because African markets need access to that capital in order to grow,” the President said.
Even more important, Kagame said, was good politics that demand accountability and results from leaders and at the same time promoting unity and ensuring stability.
Terming it as ‘People Technology, ’ the Head of State said development was more than money and machines and more about the general population and the quality of lives lived every day.
“In practice, this means good politics that demand accountability and results from leaders and promote unity over division and protect security and stability which are the foundation of everything else. It is a myth that economic and social development can ever occur without civic participation and rights,” said Kagame.
New digital era
On the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Kagame said, going forward, the continent ought to be mindful of the gaps brought about by failing to make the most of the previous industrial revolutions.
“The Fourth Industrial Resolution builds on the previous ones which largely passed Africa by. As a result, Africa barely registers in global value chains. Africa can only claim its place on the table by earning it. Africa should not be still playing catch up by the time the fifth industrial revolution comes around,” he said.
Dominic Barton said, in readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, countries across the continent ought to attract investments in infrastructure by marketing opportunities to multilaterals who have the capital to tap into existing opportunities.
He also called for a review of tertiary education systems to ensure that graduates possess the right skills to make the most of the industrial era.
“We need to change from four-year education programmes to train people. We can train people with high school education to be job ready in technology by linking education with employers,” Barton said.
He said this would, in turn, improve the productivity of basic services, which still continue to lag behind, such as healthcare and agriculture.
Graca Machel echoed Kagame’s remarks noting that, due to inequality across the continent, the previous industrial revolutions had left a majority of Africans behind.
She said in readiness for the revolution, concern should be given to women who made the largest section of society and were left behind by past revolutions.
“It is an issue of a business case and not a humanitarian issue. In all spheres, whether political, economic or business, development and growth can only occur if all members of society are included,” Machel said.
Adesina, on his part, said before looking at digital literacy and rollout of technology, it is important to address fundamental issues, such as having access to electricity.
In regards to Rwanda hosting the forum, Kagame commended WEF’s approach in dealing with Africa, saying it encouraged partnership and demonstrated optimism.
“It (the approach) is free of pity and apprehension. The Africa that the world meets through WEF is a continent of opportunity and partnership, and a full actor in the story of globalisation, sharing common values and ambitions.
Moreover, to be able to convene the forum here, in Rwanda, demonstrates that optimism about Africa’s prospects is always the best response to adversity,” Kagame said.
The three-day forum, under the theme “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation,” closes today.
The forum has discussed a range of the continent’s economic aspects, including analysing opportunities and risks with a bias for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.