Africa: Kagame - Digitisation is Driving Africa's Progress

Photo: New Times
President Paul Kagame.

Africa's progress and economic growth is being realised in part due to the role that information and communication technologies are playing, President Paul Kagame said.

He was addressing participants attending the Viva Technology Conference, known as "VivaTech" in Paris, France.

The summit brings together global tech firms and startups.

"When you look at the growth of economies across Africa, every country is really doing the best everyone can to make this investment into technologies," Kagame said.

The Head of State shared Rwanda's transformation journey and pointed out that the country understood that technology would improve the way of doing things, despite criticism from those who thought otherwise.

"At the same time during this [transformation] process, moving from one level to another; education, health, justice, agriculture, infrastructure, we were also thinking about the use of technology and digitisation of our economy for the future," he noted.

A cross-section of delegates at the ongoing Viva Technology Conference, known as "VivaTech" in Paris, France, yesterday. Village Urugwiro.

He added that this enabled the country to reverse the way people had been used to doings things even as some, who did not understand Rwanda's aspirations, considered it premature.

"People used to call us crazy; how are you Rwandans talking about digitisation and ICTs when the country is torn apart, education is not working, health has to be built, and so on. We told them we don't see any conflict," he recounted.

He added; "We realised that information and communication technology and the whole process of digitisation was going to make more efficient, more productive, every sector we had to deal with."

The President indicated that it was very clear from the beginning that technology was going to be a bridge between the traditional part of Rwanda's continued growth into the future by connecting the past with the future.

Kagame, who headed to Paris after hosting the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, told the participants that there are a lot of things in the technology space that shows that Africa is moving in the right direction.

"We have created the Smart Africa Alliance. This means that we have to digitise and be looking at digital economies' growth and what that means for overall growth and development of our countries," he noted.

The Alliance brings together 26 countries with a combined population of 600 million people, which the President said is a great step towards integration.

For instance, he said, if Africa created one network it would bring together the African people, and equally make it easier and cheaper for them to communicate.

He, however, said that there is need to make sure that technologies are accessible so that people can tap into them to add value to what is already being done.

Tech brings efficiency

On the core role of technologies, Kagame said that they bring together societies, bring about a multiplier effect and facilitate in management of government administration.

Kagame pointed to Rwanda's e-government platforms where services are given to the populations more easily and faster which has, in turn, saved money and increased revenues.

Kagame added that there is a need to invest in digital infrastructure that people will use, invest in institutions that will develop talents, and to identify talents that are developing and make sure they are availed with resources they can tap into.

"We also have to find a way to tap into private capital that is available so that these things are able to serve the market," he said, highlighting that this is what Rwanda has been doing.

Rwanda has established partnerships which have seen setting up of academic institutions like the Carnegie Mellon University, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and African Leadership University.

"This is to make sure that the talent that has been identified does not just get lost, but rather is pulled in these institutions to continue developing their capabilities," he noted.

Kagame argued that Africa has more talented people than the rest of the world, most of whom are already serving the rest of the world.

"There is a realisation that if we create the necessary environment, not only should we be continuing to develop talent that potentially we have, but we see that the talent that has already been developed will serve Africa, eventually," he said.

President Kagame was sharing Africa's progress in digital economy along with President Macky Sall of Senegal in a session moderated by Maurice Lévy, the Chairman of Publicis Groupe.

At VivaTech, local technology companies have joined the rest of firms and startups from across the world to showcase their evolving innovations as well as investment opportunities.

President Kagame later visited the offices of l'Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie before holding a discussion with business leaders and members of the Young Presidents' Organization.

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