African Heads of State begin meeting in Kigali tomorrow in what has been dubbed Connect Africa summit. This is a milestone that should be celebrated for a country that has adopted ICT as the cornerstone for its national development program.
The summit not only gives an impetus to Rwanda’s Vision 2020, but it also goes further in doing the same for integration in the region. Information Communication Technology will play a key part in the East African Community which recently welcomed Burundi and Rwanda into its fold.
The Connect Africa Summit will be held under the patronage of President Paul Kagame, and the Chairman of the African Union, President John Kufour of Ghana.
This is a proud moment that should not only look at the 17 percent achievement that the country has registered in Internet use, but should it also address the issue of a Marshal Plan-like plan for research and evaluation of ICT infrastructure needed for Africa.
While investment in ICT infrastructure in Africa has improved dramatically in recent years- representing a total of USD 8 billion in 2005 (up from USD 3.5 billion in 2000- and growth in mobile phones has increased by as much as 400 per cent, Africa has fallen back in overall connectivity.
Though mobile telecommunication has surpassed fixed line telephone access, fewer than 4 out of every 100 Africans have Internet access.
Broadband penetration remains below 1 per cent; and 70 per cent of all Internet traffic within Africa is re-routed outside the continent driving up costs for businesses and consumers.
With less than 8 years left to meet the 2015 target of the UN-Millennium Development Goals (MDG), drastic steps should be taken.
ICT connectivity targets should also act as catalysts in achieving the broader development goals of creating wealth and sustainable economic growth for the entire African population.
However, since the UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has expressed his full support to the Connect Africa initiative, the end result of the summit should also address its vision and commitment to meeting long-term global concerns such as climate change especially in the hosting region.