What the World Economic Forum meant for Rwanda

The World Economic Forum on Africa gathering that took place in the country last week was one of the best opportunities for Rwanda to demonstrate its ability in its transformational agenda.

The World Economic Forum on Africa gathering that took place in the country last week was one of the best opportunities for Rwanda to demonstrate its ability in its transformational agenda.

Like Switzerland, which hosts the WEF in Davos every year, Rwanda also hosted political, business, intellectual and civil society leaders from various places of the world.

The aim of the gathering was to focus more particularly on Africa’s pathway to transformation. More generally, the WEF is committed to improving the state of the world—that’s international organisation for Public-Private Partnership.

Though small, landlocked, and mountainous nation, Rwanda’s economy has outperformed almost all its continental peers since 2000. Rwanda has nurtured an attractive business environment that has become important for sustainable development.

More importantly, it has built the tourism industry into the country’s biggest foreign-exchange earner by hosting events such as the WEF and the 2014 African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings and luring visitors to see endangered mountain gorillas and climb volcanoes.

It has also boosted agricultural output and manufacturing by improving roads and electricity supply. Rwanda’s experiences exhibited high on the agenda of the WEF meeting, which focused on how African countries can harness technology and knowledge to spur growth.

At the WEF in Kigali, the delegates discussed a wide range of topics, including digital revolution of Africa, corruption as a bottleneck to investment, among others. Regarding digital transformation, to date, Rwanda is ranked top Sub Saharan African country with most affordable internet for the second time, successively, according to Alliance for Affordable Internet’s (A4AI’s) 2015-16 Affordability Report released on February 22, 2016.

The findings further noted the state of broadband affordability across 51 developing and emerging economies, with a focus on how policy and regulation are working to reduce prices and enable wider access.

Currently, Rwanda stands in 3rd place in Africa following Morocco and Mauritius, and comes in 11th place, globally, with overall score of 53.13 per cent.

At this rate, things are so far good but not so good to be complacent. More needs to be done in this area because the digital revolution is not just about communication. Digital revolution is about recognising that information is the currency of all economic activities.

Unfortunately, despite the rapid adoption of mobile phones, Africa lags behind other regions in its use of core digital platforms, such as the internet. This is especially compounded by the high prices charged for critical digital services, such as broadband.

This challenge requires only to create enabling environment for investors in internet services and to support building enough critical infrastructure. It’s not a matter of commitment in fact, it’s a matter of priority.

Given Rwanda’s small economy, it prioritises people’s interests by allocating resources in those areas that can dramatically change their lives.

In Africa, pursuant to a recent regional telecommunications framework adopted to implement “One Africa Network,” which was held in Kigali, member states should invest in digital as one of the pathways to revolutionalise the socio-economic status of Africans in general.

Of course, this is not an end in itself, it is rather a kick-start of continental cooperation to minimise the highcost and low capacity utilisation of internet around Africa.

There’re numerous investments that can share the same attributes as railways, electric grids, roads, and water and sanitation.

Integrating internet virtually in all spheres of society isn’t a panacea, because internet itself has some downsides, such as cybercrime.

Today, Africa, or the globe, faces a big challenge of cybercriminals that collaborate across various groups to combine a wide variety of intelligence and attack methods, more than ever before.

If cyber-criminals can collaborate to involve in a dodgy deal (cybercrime e.g. phishing) why can’t states organise themselves to synergise their efforts in preventing and punishing cybercriminals?

Without which combating cybercrime will remain an uphill battle if any country chooses to act singly. Regional and international cooperation is of paramount importance.

Another intractable challenge is abysmal corruption which is a bottleneck to investments in Africa, a point President Kagame raised on the opening day of the WEF. In truth, corruption is at the heart of so many of the world’s problems.

Therefore, particularly in Africa, tackling corruption should be a top priority, if the continent is committed to creating a suitable investment climate.

Unfortunately, in February this year, Kenya was ranked the third most corrupt country in the world according to a survey on prevalence of economic crimes released by audit firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The audit firm found that Kenya beat the rest of the world in economic crimes such as embezzlement, bribery and procurement fraud.

Driving out corruption requires a flurry of stringent measures, such as promoting integrity, transparency and accountability, exploring innovative solutions and new technologies, and strengthening international cooperation.

Eliminating loopholes that allow corruption to thrive through misuse of powers and work as well as reinforcing new technologies and uses of data will empower ordinary people to fight corruption. The private sector should be part of the fight against corruption.

The writer is an International Law expert.

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