Kampala, Uganda — Africa is not so poor it has to depend on the foreign countries. Instead the main challenge is that Africans prefer to invest in the western countries, leaving their countries without investments and untapped and unexploited resources.
This was President Paul Kagame main argument at the Transform Africa Summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali. He said Africans need to change their mindset to be able to reach their dreams and that single market and speedy integration would not be reached if they still invest abroad.
Kagame told the African leaders, government officials, and global and regional private investors and leaders of businesses and international organisations at the 2nd session of TAS that they need to collaborate on new ways of shaping, accelerating, and sustaining Africa's on-going digital revolution.
"We are not poor, not at all. The issue is more the mindset that it is normal to use our money for consumption while we leave strategic long-term investing to others. It means that no matter how much we earn; we would remain poor," he says.
Kagame added that Africa needs the right mindset to do right business and make everybody part of it by strategising where money is invested in education, innovation, tech and science appropriately.
"Africa is losing billions through lost taxes and citizens sending private capital abroad," he said, "tech innovations and policies that can help seal these leaks, the continent can salvage its resources and realise its full potential."
He added: "We should not only aim at high-end technology and innovation but also create a dynamism that goes back and addresses the lower end that affects the majority of our people; how to bridge the gap that will continuously allow us to advance and have a future that we want."
The leaders also discussed elements of a strategy to grow a Pan-African e-commerce ecosystem that will allow the emergence of home grown companies that are able to compete at global stage.
The future of Africa's digital revolution belongs to the youthr
Dr. Jared Leigh Cohon, President Emeritus & University Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering & Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University hinted on different initiatives to advance tech on the continent.
He said Carnegie Melon University was brought to Rwanda to educate the future leaders in ICT on the continent so that the young minds can impact their countries and the world.
"Africa's time is now," he said.
According to him, Africa should be prioritising technical skills and Rwanda is well placed to enhance the campaign equipping the human capital.
"World class education would not be reached without the technology and innovation and skilled employees to create the engine to influence Africa's economy. However, the existing challenges and the use of digital technology," he said. Women and youth should not be left behind.
Africa's population will be 1.6 billion by 2030, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the rapidly growing youth population will constitute 42% of that number. Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB) says that one-third of Africa's 420 million youths (those ages 15-35) are unemployed, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six young people is gainfully employed.
Youth unemployment is increasing at a speedy rate and they will need opportunities to participate in politics, jobs and overall inclusion in development. The digital revolution is one way to equip this generation with skills to tap every opportunity.
Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), made a pitch for buyer-seller trust in Africa and improvements through e-commerce. He advised youth to ensure their governments formulate good digital policies.
"Africa is very dynamic with the new technologies and infrastructure but it may not be able to achieve the single digital market without involving young entrepreneurs," he said.
According to Strive Masiyiwa, Founder of the Econet; the diversified international Telecommunications, Media and wireless Technology group, ICT needs to dig deep for financial inclusion which would speed up the development in Africa since every country on the continent has mobile payment systems.
"The whole system needs improvement," he said, "In education as well as health care architecture and payment systems access."
He added that the private sector has to invest and allocate capital where necessary because, although it is the responsibility of the state to facilitate digital markets, there are deficits in political support to the ICT sector.
Miroslav Lajcak, the president of the United Nations General Assembly for the 72nd session, said development cannot happen without focusing on the digital revolution.
He said Rwanda's ambitious Vision of 2020 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN offer development opportunities and challenges on how countries can provide service and innovations to boost health and other sectors. He said with creativity and skills, resources could be shared more easily.
"Africa can do it,' he said.
Others areas discussed included digital identity, connectivity, and regulations, the automotive industry in Africa, digital health and the landscape and country roadmaps in implementing sustainable smart cities and communities.