The New Times (Kigali)

29 June 2014

Rwanda: Smart Africa Is the Way to Go

LAST WEEK, President Paul Kagame, while in Equatorial Guinea, hosted the first board meeting of the Smart Africa initiative, which seeks to place Information Communication Technology at the heart of Africa's development.

The meeting was part of the just-concluded African Union Summit.

The initiative, whose manifesto was drawn and adopted in Kigali, last year, during the Transform Africa Summit, defines eight priority areas where the main focus will be put to turn fortunes of the African continent.

This is the kind of project that is needed to ensure that Africa, a continent that has for long assumed the rather infamous tag of the 'dark continent' makes meaningful strides toward growth, instead of remaining a basket case half a century after most of its member states gained independence.

With infrastructural bottlenecks still prevalent (especially poor or non-existent interstate road networks), ICT becomes the main tool to boost intra-Africa trade, if unreservedly embraced.

Africa already has the fastest growing market for mobile telephony, whose penetration, as of December last year, had reached 80 per cent. This means that there is will on behalf of the people to embrace ICT, and the ball remains in the policymakers' side of the court to leverage this penetration to bring meaningful change to the people.

That President Kagame committed $200,000 toward the Smart Africa Scholarship Fund - which will sponsor African students to pursue post-graduate studies in ICT - is a gesture worth emulating by not only governments, but also the well established corporate companies, especially those with ICT at the core of their business like Telecoms, to support the initiative. This will enable the citizens to have a pool of tech-savvy Africans that will drive innovation.

With renowned ICT global centres of excellence such as Carnegie Mellon University already having a presence in Africa, it will no longer be required for African students to go to Europe or North America to pursue these courses.

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