A Smart Way to Transform Africa
Rwanda hosted this year’s edition of the Transform Africa Summit between 19 October and 21 October in Kigali. This is the second Transform Africa; this year’s theme was “Accelerating Digital Innovation” and it was organized and supported by the Government of Rwanda, ITU, and the World Bank. There were more than 2,500 participants from Smart Africa member countries, the UN Broadband Commission, CEOs, and academics, among others. Notable participants include companies like CISCO and Ericsson.
Its main aim was to evaluate the implementation of the Smart Africa initiative and share best practices. The first Transform Africa Summit, held in 2013, developed Smart Africa to encourage socio-economic development through ICTs. Its Manifesto, which includes information on its policy, access, e-government, private sector and entrepreneurship, and sustainable development goals, can be found here.
Smart Africa’s members include eight African states, as well as the African Union, the AFDB, GSMA, ICANN, ITU, NEPAD, the World Bank, and UNECA. Members host flagship initiatives on the following topics: ICT industry development, SMART cities, youth innovation and job creation, digital economy, green economy, and digital literacy.
ITU endorsed Smart Africa at its 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference and Smart Africa members participated in ITU Telecom World. To show continued support, ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao opened this Summit, alongside Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi and Rwanda Development Board CEO Francis Gatare. Zhao emphasized ICTs as integral to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.
He said, “We hope to continue working together to maximize the value of using technologies. I hope Africa will move faster and better. Together we have the power to transform Africa.”
The Summit’s activities included keynote speeches from Heads of State, Q&As, plenary meetings, ministerial roundtables, and other activities. There was a particular focus on how local solutions and partnerships, in addition to regulations, could foster investment in African ICT. The participants saw potential for up to $300 billion of such investments on the continent, up from $70 billion in 2013.
Having already made commendable progress in just a couple years, it remains exciting to watch the Smart Africa initiative and the Transform Africa Summit continue to grow, develop, and achieve their goals.