Transform Africa Summit 2018 – Bigger, Better, Smarter

  • June 12, 2018

‘We, the Heads of State and Governments here present, commit, support the socio-economic transformation of Africa through smart implementation and application of Information and Communication Technologies,’ reads the Preamble of Smart Africa – an alliance that was born out of the first Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda on 28-31 October, 2013.

The Smart Africa Manifesto document was adopted by 7 African Heads of States in which they committed to providing leadership in accelerating socio-economic development through ICTs.

Cut to 2018, and the exponential progress of the Summit can be seen by the number and diversity of the attendees – over 4,000 delegates, about 100 exhibitors from more than 90 countries – at the fourth Transform Africa 2018 Summit that took place at the Kigali Convention Center, Rwanda, from May 7-10, 2018.

Under the theme ‘Accelerating Africa’s Single Digital Market’, the summit was attended by Heads of State and Government, First Ladies, United Nations Broadband Commissioners, Ministers, Public and Private Sector, International organisations, Industry leaders, Investors, Entrepreneurs, Young innovators, Civil Society and Academia.

This year’s summit also featured the first Transform Africa Economic Forum, a Government-to-Business engagement that took place on May 7, 2018, where attending Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries engaged with a targeted audience of business leaders and high net-worth investors on investment opportunities and areas of collaboration.










May 7, 2018




  • Opening Session: Setting the Vision for Smart CFTA

The recent launch of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was a tremendous milestone towards Africa’s economic liberation bringing together close to 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion. True to Smart Africa’s mission of driving Africa’s Single Digital Market, it is a shared belief across the continent that digital technologies have the power to accelerate the pace towards AfCFTA goals and to make Africa more competitive outwardly. This session highlighted potential cross-border initiatives for investment and partnership opportunities relevant to AfCFTA.

The welcoming remarks were given by Honourable Clare Akamanzi, CEO, Rwanda Development Board while the opening remarks were given by Lamin M. Manneh, Director, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa, Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman and Founder, Econet Group and Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Executive Director, Smart Africa Secretariat.



Excerpts of the Keynote Address by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

One of the attractions for me to be here is that I was told this is a place where people don’t have to wear ties (laughs).

Distinguished audience, among you political and business leaders, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. I am very happy to join you for this discussion not only to wish you a productive series of discussions but also to let you know why the topic of integration is so timely.

I commend Dr Hamadoun Touré and his team for making it (The Transform Africa Economic Forum) happen. The support of Ecobank for this event is also appreciated.

Let me just repeat what many have said before. Technological integration must be looked at holistically. And co-operation on technology has yielded good results to some extent in our continent in the recent years.

Meanwhile, urgent integration projects have languished on the African Agenda, sometimes even for decades. That is beginning to change with such forums where people from various backgrounds gather together and share their ideas.

We are sure we can find ways of speeding that up.

Technology comes with a common set of standards. Our people especially the youth have to eagerly embrace the digital economy and we expect them to play a full part in it.

Innovation is also anchored in the private sector in terms of research and the distribution of products and services. On the government side, there has to be a positive trend of a regulatory framework with the mission to encourage this sector and regulate it in the public sector. That prevents politics from slowing things down.

Examples of successful regional integration such as Smart Africa focussing on a ‘One Africa Network’ have laid the groundwork for even more ambitious projects such as the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. It has helped by providing the confirmation that we have everything to gain from working together and from being more connected. The forthcoming discussions are, therefore, very much welcome. We will continue to advance on the Digital Transformation Agenda championed by the African Union, Smart Africa, the Broadband Commission, as well our many external partners here with us supporting these efforts.

On that momentum, let’s stay on course to unlock tremendous opportunities for our region. I wish you a successful meeting and we look forward to meeting you again for the Summit.’



  1. Digital Connectivity – An enabler and a foundation

While building cross-border infrastructure is still capital intensive and takes a long time, the existing mobile telecom infrastructure, fibre optic networks and satellite provides market connectivity immediately. The African Region is experiencing a rapid growth of mobile usage with 80.8% mobile penetration and 25.10% internet user’s penetration, against 99.70% and 47.10% at world level (ITU source 2016). Globally, the value of cross-border data has surpassed that of goods.

Data has become the new oil. However, infrastructure and harnessing the benefits of this new oil are still challenges. This session discussed the role telecommunication operators should play going forward in the realization of the Smart CFTA.

Conversation Leaders

Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO, MTN Group, Atef Helmy, Senior Director, Orange, MEA Chérif Antigou, General Manager, Guinea Post and Telecommunication Authority Regulator (ARPT), Amrote Abdella, General Manager, Microsoft 4Afrika

Special Intervention

Dr Bello Moussa, Director Innovations and Industries Relations in Huawei SA region

Moderated by

Onica Makwakwa, Regional Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet, Web Foundation


Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO, MTN Group

‘The development of local content, as well as the creation of intelligent, smart infrastructure that will bring down the cost for the population, is important. We have seen that there is a direct relationship between investment and growth. All the countries that we have seen growing are able to do so because there is infrastructure to support the population.

We need to be able to be flexible and adopt the right technology and also create the right business model.

So how do we create the right business model that allows you to be up for the world?

I have always maintained that 3G is more exciting for Africa than 4G. We have got more opportunities to connect customers to the internet on 3G. Though in the metros, there is a lot of talk and hype about 5G devices, there are a number of questions around the 5G business model.

Also, there is already a lot of sharing of infrastructure and transmission of access fibres. Generally, the regulatory bodies are very supportive and there is not so much of a regulatory issue; there is a lot of co-operation. The real challenge, however, is deploying the technology in a cost-effective way,

New technologies are coming up, cost of technology is coming down, and we remain hopeful that we can take a meaningful step in the near future.’






Amrote Abdella, General Manager, Microsoft 4Afrika

‘We need to start creating the ecosystem. We can all talk all day but at the end of the day what kind of content are we consuming. How do we develop the right skills and the right capabilities to solve the issues we have in Africa.

A lot of the content that we consume today is being built and developed outside. How do we make sure that we are creating an enabling environment for us to be able to create the content we need? Today, if a large part of our employment depends upon Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), how do we solve the issue of access to the right marketplace; in a way that is affordable with the right infrastructure and the right fees? That is not just the burden of the Government, but it is something that we all need to solve together.

Last but not the least, we have the policy. How much of the policy can we actually execute and how much of it is workable?

We can sign a lot of MoUs but at the end of the day, what is in it for the public and the private sector?

The example of India is an interesting one! Looking at Jio, which got a hundred million users online is remarkable.

In India, it is comparatively easier to connect populations at that scale because of a single regulatory framework but it gets complicated in fragmented countries such as that in our continent.

For countries such as India and China, it is one country and one decision. But in a continent like Africa, it is very complicated to implement just one policy and one legal framework in such varied regions.’





  1. Financial Technology Platforms

Powered by young innovators, Africa pioneered the mobile payment sector but lost intellectual property and leadership in the process. Cross-border transactions heavily rely on outside costly platforms. This fintech revolution has created challenges and opportunities that are now at the helm of transforming the finance sector. In the quest to become a single digital market, this session addressed the foreseen challenges and drew practical resolutions that are key to this vision.

Keynote presentation

Ade Ayeyemi, Group CEO, Ecobank

Conversation Leaders


Ade Ayeyemi, Group CEO, Ecobank Guillaume Habarugira, CEO, Bridged Shikoh Gitau, Head of products, Safaricom Diane Karusisi, CEO, Bank of Kigali Group Karanvir Singh, Founder & CEO, Yegomoto- Yego Innovision Ltd

Special Interventions

C.D Glin, ‎President and CEO, ‎U.S. African Development Foundation

Moderated by

Jean Claude Gaga, CEO, RSwitch




  1. Digital trade

The session focussed on regulatory frameworks and technology platforms to be implemented in support of intra-African trade as well as exports of value-added goods and services. This conversation highlighted how digital solutions can streamline supply chains, logistics, revenue protection, quality assurance traceability, insurance and payments across borders and discuss the 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 the global stage.

Conversation Leaders

Gunter Nooke, Commissioner for Africa and Personal representative of German Chancellor for Africa, BMZ, Alex Kapungu, CEO, DMM Africa, Tusabe Richard, Commissioner General, Rwanda Revenue Authority, Chris Hale, Founder and CEO, Kountable

Special Interventions

Dr Kituyi Mukhisa, Secretary-General, UNCTAD, Dr Hermogene Nsengimana, Director General, Africa Standards Organisation


A cultural soiree at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village marked the end of the first-ever Transform Africa Economic Forum. Session partner was the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE).








May 8, 2018



  1. The official opening

On the second day of the event, guests arrived for the official opening of the Transform Africa Summit 2018.

Welcoming remarks were given by Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Executive Director, Smart Africa Secretariat. The opening remarks were given by Dr Jared Cohon, President Emeritus and University Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering & Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University. The keynote address was given by H.E Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda.

The leaders including Houlin Zhao, Secretary General, International Telecommunications Union and Miroslav Lajčák, President of the United Nations General Assembly, made deliberations on ‘The building blocks for a successful single digital market’ for Africa.






  1. Digital Identity, Connectivity and Regulations

Globally, the value of cross-border data has surpassed that of goods. Recent data breaches and scandals have reiterated the emphasis on regulatory resolve that protects consumers more and more. However, Africa’s sovereign data remains exposed and there is a need to put in place platforms that protect and create value of our own data.

The value of data is still underestimated and so are other underlying enabling environments. The World Bank estimates that more than 1.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to formal identification documentation. Mobile operators have unique resources that enable them to bridge this gap through their secure, reliable and scalable forms of mobile-based platforms. This conversation discussed the trends of regulations that need to be put in place to curb the identity crisis.

Conversation Leaders

Hon. Masahiko Tominaga, Vice Minister for policy coordination, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan, Hon. Cina Lawson, Minister of Posts and digital economy, Republic of Togo, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President and Commissioner, Digital Single Market. European Commission, Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA, Robert Pepper, Head, Global Connectivity and Technology Policy, Facebook, Maurits Tichelman, Vice President and General Manager, Global Markets and Partners EMEA Territory, Intel

Special interventions

Phillipp Metzger, Director General, Swiss Federal Office of Communications, Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Media Lab, Prof. Abdulaziz Salem Al Ruwais, Governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), Saudi Arabia.

Moderated by

Julie Gichuru, Media Personality








  1. Digital Health Hub: State of Digital Health in Africa – Landscape and Countries Roadmaps


The African Region is experiencing a rapid development of ICT, with 80.8% mobile penetration and 25.10% internet users’ penetration, against 99.70% and 47.10% at world level (ITU source 2016). This situation allows using e-Health services in the African Region to contribute to strengthening health systems and accelerating the attainment of the SDGs, including UHC.

In the African region, 26 countries have e-Health strategies. According to the WHO global survey on e-Health (2015), the most notable e-Health intervention in the region is m-Health, followed by social media, telehealth and e-Learning. ICT is already transforming health systems and how healthcare is delivered. Marked progress has been made in initiating e-Health systems in the region. However, challenges remain in enabling countries to sustain e-Health services and the required human resources skills.

This session hosted key thought leaders on digital health in Africa and explored means and ways to scale up existing digital health efforts for the acceleration of health related SDGs. It also witnessed the launch of the Africa Alliance for Digital Health Network.

Conversation Leaders

Andrew Rugege, ITU Regional Director for Africa, Peter Benjamin, Executive Director, Health Enabled, Olasupo Oyadepo, President, Africa Alliance of Digital Health Networks, Derrick Muneene, e-Health and m-Health regional technical advisor, World Health Organization – AFRO.

Moderated by

Dr Jeanine Condo, Director General, Rwanda Biomedical Center




  1. Digital Transformation Hub

Discussion on Public-Private Partnerships to Implement Sustainable Smart Cities and Communities

As the development of Smart Cities accelerates in cities and regions globally, PPPs are emerging as a viable means of providing the integrated planning, funding, expertise, deployment and management necessary for Smart City initiatives that cut across and connect multiple municipal sectors. Inmarsat and a group of international organisations formed a strategic alliance and presented a PPP model (which was subsequently recommended by the committee) at the recent Smart Africa Steering Committee in Addis Ababa.


  1. Digital Governance program

“A conversation with the African Union Commission on benchmarking best practice e-Government solutions.” Co-hosted by the African Union Commission and Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.



A gala dinner organised at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village gave a celebratory end to a day of exhaustive productive discourse.






May 9, 2018


The third and final day of the discussions included the most important universal issues that touch almost every human being in this world, yet remain unaddressed due to various hurdles.



  1. Digital Transformation Hub

The Digital Economy and Transformation: Agriculture for Industrialization (‘Cow in the Car’)

This session at Smart Africa demonstrated the role of the digital economy in the transformation of Africa with a focus on how digitization is being harnessed to drive economic transformation, modalities that exist to finance innovation and support technological change, how the education systems are adapting and what needs rethinking in the link between learning and doing, roles data analytics and large-scale observatories are playing to enable an inclusive transformation and approaches that make sense for industrialization in the face of the challenges from the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The hypotheses are that with better use of technologies for data gathering and modelling techniques, smart approaches to supporting innovation education and learning, and flexible approaches to financing innovation, we could enhance the quality of decision making and allow multiple stakeholders to arrive at the right solutions. This session brought together policymakers, private sector entrepreneurs, educators and other experts to address these issues.






  1. Face the Gorillas

Face the Gorillas returned to the summit in 2018 with a focus on the budding entrepreneurs within the Smart Africa Member States.

Finalists were from Angola, Senegal, Chad, Rwanda and Uganda. Face the Gorillas is a start-up seed capital fundraising platform that provides a unique opportunity to aspiring African entrepreneurs and young innovators to make a 5-minute pitch to a panel of Angel investors to access capital of up to USD 200,000, partnerships or mentorship in front of a live audience. Each finalist has time to pitch and make a deal with one or more panellists. Their pitch is followed by a live negotiation and audience participation. Initiated by Rwanda ICT Chamber, a partner of the Transform Africa Summit, the competition aims to Discover and Inspire Africa’s next Digital Giants.


Investors (Gorillas)

Stephen Roux, Partner Dragon, Tree Capital Eugene Nyagahene, Chairman, Tele10 GroupKenza Lahlou, Managing Partner, Outlierz Ventures Eva Sow Ebion, Business Incubation Manager, CTIC Dakar

Moderated by

Yariv Cohen, Chairman, Kaenaart




  1. Digital Skills and Jobs: Building a digital workforce for a digital society

The ongoing digitisation efforts are enabling new ways of living, producing and consuming. Nascent technological advancements are ushering us into a new era where digital skills won’t be an asset but a must-have. The African market offers an unlimited wealth of opportunities that are yet to be untapped. Digital technologies are expected to outstand this gap as the economic gain is enormous.

Drawing from the principle that “talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not, this session addressed the brain-drain syndrome and discussed the re-brain strategy as well as opportunities that need to be created to attract the talent and incentivize the local ingenuity.

Conversation Leaders

Hon. Joseph Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, Kenya, Michel Bézy, Associate Director, Carnegie Mellon University Africa, Janet Longmore, Founder and CEO, Digital Opportunity Trust, Wambui Kinya, Chief Strategy Officer, Andela

Special Interventions

Paul Mitchel, Senior Director, Tech Policy, MicrosoftAlain Kajangwe, Re Brain Africa

Moderated by

Nathalie Munyampenda, Managing Director, Next Einstein Forum



Michel Bézy, Associate Director, Carnegie Mellon University Africa

‘How do we make sure that we are creating an environment of innovation for children at a young age?

Instead of ‘One Laptop per Child,’ maybe we should have started ‘One Laptop per Teacher’ before giving it to the kids. We should not underestimate the capability of kids with respect to technology as today the kids teach their parents to operate computers, which is a great way of moving forward.

The children are the hope of the continent. We need to make sure that we are creating environment of certain values for them.



  1. Blockchain Hub

Future use of Blockchain technologies in Africa: IOT micro-transactions, thin-layer data storage, more resilient energy grid solutions and others

IoT, smart grids, and data storage are the backbone of the 21st-century African industrial revolution. What will it take for the world and Africa to leapfrog into efficient manufacturing, agriculture and other economic activities while preserving precious natural resources?

Conversation Leaders

Jimmy Nguyen, CEO, nChain GroupSandra Ro, CEO, Global Blockchain Business Council Riad Hartani, Co-Founder, Xona Partners & Strategic Technology Adviser, Smart City AlgiersMichael Kimani, Vice President Partnerships, ChamaPesa Karim Ahres, CEO, NETCOM, Tunisia

Moderated by

Clement Ndegeya, CEO, EC Property Management





  1. The Roadmap to the $300 billion investment goal

Smart Africa Secretariat has set to attract an investment target worth $300 Billion for the continent. Drawing from the panellists’ respective areas of expertise, stances on what needs to occur in order to achieve this ambitious target will be discussed. This session will also look into Africa’s readiness and uniqueness to adapt to new economic and financial requirements.

Conversation Leaders

Hon. Bruno Nabagné Kone, Ministre de la Communication, de l’Economie Numérique et de la Poste, Côte d’Ivoire, Hon. Clare Akamanzi, CEO, Rwanda Development Board, Dr Hamadoun Touré, Executive Director, Smart Africa, Ashish Thakkar, Founder, Mara Group, Samba Bathily, CEO, Solektra International and co-founder of Akon Lighting Africa, Stephen Spengler, CEO, Intelsat

Special interventions

Brandon Freeman, Head of Smart Cities, Inmarsat

Moderated by

Eric White, Project Lead, Internet for All, World Economic Forum




  1. Smart Africa Women Summit: ‘Women and digital inclusion’


Women in low and middle-income countries are on average 10% less likely to own a phone than men. Additionally, even when women own mobile phones they underutilize it especially for services such as internet and smart applications 2. The GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Reports 2018, shows that 1.2 billion women in low and middle-income countries do not use mobile internet. There is on average 26% gap between men and women use of mobile internet. The high cost of access is the main barrier general. Though for women lack of awareness, low literacy, and lack of digital illiteracy are additional factors. It was shown that closing the gender digital divide in Africa could unlock and estimated $20 Billion market opportunity over from 2015 to 2020. As a follow up to last year’s edition where the Africa Smart Women and Girls Initiative declaration was launched and in light of the recently concluded African Union summit on CFTA, this session will serve as a retrospective and a renewed call to action for digital inclusion.





Moderator: Novella, TV Personality, Rwanda Broadcasting Association

‘I consider this session the most important (of all the sessions), but obviously I am biased and I accept that bias. Because if you look at the numbers that were outlined earlier – of women being left behind, not having access to online services and ICT devices – then that bias, I believe, is justified. And we must take action to change it.

Our objective is to come out of this session with clear commitments about what needs to be done and what needs to be done now to close the digital gender divide.

This is the second edition of the women’s summit and last year we saw the adoption of the Smart Women and Girls Declaration aiming to close the digital gender divide. Today, we have made the commitments, we know what needs to be done but now we need to work upon how to make it happen.’






Opening remarks from Honourable Esparance Safari, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Rwanda

‘Honourable Ministers present here, the Executive Director of Smart Africa Secretariat, Dr Hamadoun Touré, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union Commission, Resident Coordinator, One UN, Representatives of International and Regional Organizations, Representatives from academia, Leaders and Ministers from ICT industry, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the Smart Africa Women’s Summit. Let me, first of all, express my special thanks to the Smart Africa Secretariat in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda that has worked tirelessly to organize the fourth edition of the Transform Africa Summit 2018 and in particular for organizing the Women’s Summit.

I want to thank you all for your presence, which is an indication of your role in the development of girls and women in ICT.

During the adoption of the Smart Africa Women and Girl’s Declaration at last year’s Transform Africa Summit, three principles were formulated.

  • The first principle was to increase access to affordable technology and provide infrastructure for women and girls.
  • The second was to empower women and girls with digital skills.
  • The third one was to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM.

I hope that this session will end with the implementation of this declaration and a renewed call to action for digital inclusion, allowing women’s contribution to achieving the Africa Digital Single Market.

In this regard, my country has put many efforts towards closing the digital gender divide, especially through the HeforShe initiative for which H.E. the President of the Republic of Rwanda is one of the global champions.

In this framework, the ICT initiatives have transformed the delivery and quality of health, education and other health services in Rwanda.

In health for example, the modern innovative mobile technologies, including rapid SMS for emergency labour, and tracking the maternal and child health continuum of care, have resulted in considerable decrease of the maternal and infant mortality rates, whereby the infant mortality rates decreased from 107 per 1000 live births in 2000 to 32 out of 1000 live births in 2015.

The number of women embracing ICT has hugely contributed to women’s economic empowerment. This has also improved their access to market information and triggered the launch of more business initiatives for women. For example, mobile phone ownership for women has played critical in increasing access to finance through money transfers. Through this gathering, we shall commit to address the existing gaps. We shall commit also to develop Smart Africa Women and Girls Strategic Plan in our respective countries and to contribute to Africa’s social and economic transformation, by actively putting ICT at the centre for women intervention.

Achieving gender equality, changing the dynamics and accelerating progress and discussing effective financing mechanisms for gender equality while ensuring their digital inclusion and their contribution to achieving knowledge-based economy.

On this note, I thank you all for your kind attention and wish you productive discussions.’





Keynote speaker Dr Amani Abouzed, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission

‘Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen!

Those of you who know me know that I love history. When I say ‘merit ptah’, what comes to your mind? ‘Merit Ptah’ is the Chief Physician of the Kingdom of Egypt. About 4,700 years ago, she was the chief physician and doctor of the Pharaoh’s Court during the second dynasty of ancient Egypt. She practiced medicine and taught medicine to other physicians. She was held at a very high level and was the very first woman scientist to be known by name in history. It happened here on this continent. And she is not the only one. We have so many bright and beautiful scientists.

I want us all to be proud of our continent and continue to be very proud of our continent.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

On behalf of the African Union Commission, it is my greatest pleasure and honour to participate in this summit dedicated to women. We are gathered here at the backdrop of a digital revolution. The internet has profoundly shaped our world and has changed our lives. The proliferation of ICT devices and services has drastically changed the way we communicate, work  and do business; as we move from firm-based economies to network economies. Indeed, today ICTs form a vital infrastructure and hold modern economies as societies become reliant on this digital infrastructure to perform essential functions related to the everyday lives. Beyond 2020, life and business will be driven by the revolution of the internet of things and artificial intelligence.

For Africa to catch up and adapt itself to this new digital environment, digital literacy and skills are key enablers to build modern societies and strong digital economies. Moreover digital technology and services can be effectively used by African countries to mitigate inequalities as well as reduce the employment gap between men and women.

Digital skills can be used for strengthening women and girls empowerment and increasing their participation in governance and the labour market. At the African Union Commission and within the framework of the Agenda 2063 towards creating a more inclusive continent, we focus on participation, inclusion, and empowerment of women to build the Africa we want and integrate it as a prosperous continent.

We strongly believe in the potential of ICTs to empower African women and girls notably to provide education, job training, promote literacy, improve access to healthcare, as well as information about government policies leading to improve women’s participation and involvement in political fields.

Investing in women has a multiplier effect. Women generally reinvest in their families and communities and play a key role in reducing poverty and promoting social and economic development for themselves, for the families and for the countries. Therefore, equal opportunities access and usage of ICT for social well-being will help young women to bring lasting changes in the communities and countries.

African women have to fully participate in shaping Africa’s digital future by playing a leading role not only as active users but also as creators of ICT applications and content that responds to Africa’s needs. There is, thus, need for our governments to advocate and promote digital literacy for African girls in all schools and universities through incorporating ICT skills in the curriculum and providing girls with digital skills that will allow them to take advantage of huge career opportunities in the ICT sector.

It was here last year when I listened to President Kagame when he was on the podium. He said that when we thought about gender equality in ICT, we could not separate it from gender equality in general when we adopt a general strategy that aims to provide equal opportunities to women and men.

I want to make a strong point about something that I saw when I arrived. You know what they say, ‘That which cannot be measured, cannot be done.’

Let us give the Ministry of Rwanda a round of applause for their wonderful work of providing gender-specific quantified indicators – showing us an example of setting very clear and specific targets and measured indicators about advancement of women in ICT.

I will conclude by saying the obvious. I would encourage and advice all of you to use ICT, Computer Sciences and Digital Technology as a powerful and revolutionary tool that enables all of us to navigate and interact in today’s global and digital world. This will ensure our countries and our continent to catch up with the rest of the world in all areas.’


Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekufui, Minister for Communications, Republic of Ghana

‘Governments can use their purchasing power to encourage the skills that we unearth from the youth. While we are developing software and applications, we are yet to meet the emerging challenges in our societies, tailored for our own use.

Governments should also procure the software and applications and not just import them from other parts of the world. That would give the youth the financial muscle and encourage them to do even more. I think if we give them the right skills and opportunities, provide the infrastructure, the connectivity, and the network, to enable them to innovate while driving down the cost of data so they can do more of what they do so well, we will be transforming our countries right within our generation.’



Dr Hamadoun Touré, Executive Director, Smart Africa Secretariat, on why we are having this women’s summit and what should we expect from it


‘Why are we here? We are here because this world is not a fair world. We are here because the world has made a difference between women and men. We are here to reinstate equality in this world.


The power of women in the society is very well known. Women play a key role in everything in life; especially the women in rural Africa are working very hard every day and also keeping their families together. I am a father of three girls and a boy. So I was a minority in the family. And I know how my daughters had to struggle and how difficult it was for them to find a job after a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. One of them is even doing a PhD now; I am very proud of her.


This world is not just and we need to bring it back. The ICT sector is the best place to do it. This industry is driven by human brain – the only natural resource that is equally distributed in the world and there is no race, gender or culture that has had more or less of that. Therefore, when those brains are trained and are given equal opportunity, they play their rightful role.


I jokingly say this sometimes, but it is true in every sense of the word that in this field also women tend to be more successful than men. Because women can think on a multi-mode; thinking many things at the same time, solving many problems. While we men are digital; we work sequentially – one thing at a time. In the electronic jargon, women are analogue and men are digital. But the fact is they are more ready for ICT. So if given the chance, they will really shine.’



Adedoyin Odunfa, CEO, Digital Jewels


‘I would like to ask the business leaders in the room to go back and examine your workplace practices and lookout for conscious and unconscious biases. As a female CEO, I still get addressed in a lot of communications as Mr. A lot of language that we have in organizations is still very biased towards men. So look at those biases and see what you can do to make your workplaces more female-friendly.


To all the female business leaders, if you are not already mentoring a young lady, please do. They need role models. If you have the capacity to reach two or five, it is fine. But please go out there and mentor young ladies.


For all the young ladies in the room, it is a tough profession so be prepared to compete on an even lane. Don’t accept discrimination but also don’t expect preferential treatment. Most businesses are there to make money so you have to be a valuable, productive, high-performance employee. Women generally are very hardworking, so be at the top of your game and do not expect handouts. But get support because it is not an easy journey. Get support where you can – family, friends, and female fellow professionals.


There are some female support bodies that have been extremely successful in providing that support. In West Africa, you have got WiMBiz, where you can interface with people who have common issues as you do. So get help, whether it is on the domestic front or on the business front. Remain focussed on the goal. As I said, everybody wants to have a highly-productive employee. Even if you decide to start your own business, you need to perform well.


Have a supportive spouse. If you haven’t made up that decision yet, please look up for a supportive spouse. It is going to be hard for you if you have got a spouse who doesn’t agree and believe in who you are!’


Fode Ndiaye, Resident Coordinator, OneUN Rwanda Adwoa Boakye, Youth voice, CEO and Founder, RecRoom

‘We need to connect to have access to economic opportunities, connect to good infrastructure to have the required connectivity, connect to knowledge, education, skills for right decision-making.


If you look at the United States, 25% of ICT CEOs are women, whereas in Africa it is 2%. The girls need to have confidence, leaders need to have confidence, the continent needs to have confidence that it is on the right path of development. ICT would be an enabling factor to make sure that Africa leapfrogs.  Africa should be a Sprintonian -sprinter because we need to run faster than the others and marathonian because the road to transform our continent is long.’




Adwoa Boakye, Youth voice, CEO and Founder, RecRoom

‘We have seen in different ecosystems that finding ways to use the internet for fun is the way people start to learn initially about new opportunities. For others, they are only been exposed to technology, but for someone working in tech itself, it is about finding support. It is about having an ecosystem that enables you to take the risks that you want to take. I am excited to see what efforts the governments make, excited to see women taking risks, and finding solutions to challenges that exist and finding partnerships with corporations and governments.’


Special Intervention by Diana L. Ofwana, Regional Director, UN Women West and Central Africa – The representative of United Nations Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

‘It is not easy to imagine any form of development in the 21st century, without the effective use of technology, in particular, the internet – both as a driver and an enabler. Technology, as we have heard and seen, has the power to reinvent industries, create entire new economies, open unlimited job opportunities and drive accelerated growth. Achieving universal affordable internet access is, therefore, a key social and economic transformation issue in Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The reality is that so many people are still not connected. We have heard about the rural divide; people who cannot access the internet. Across the globe, nearly four billion people are still offline; over two billion of these are women because of reasons such as the high cost of connectivity and low digital literacy.


Over 50% of these women are left out of the digital revolution. In fact, we risk another 20 billion dollars between 2015 and 2020 according to the GSMA Mobile Gender Report if this trend continues. So there is a heavy cost implication to this.


I want to give you an example of how we could use technology to drive economic growth in a key sector.

Agriculture is very important, given that the majority, especially the rural women, work in the agricultural sector. This one area holds promise, where technology is key to closing that digital gender divide.

In Rwanda, the buyfromwomen is a project of the Government of Rwanda with the support of the One UN and UN woman on gender and climate-smart agriculture.

It leverages the digital platform to facilitate farmer’s access to information, finance, and markets. The digital platform registers the farmer’s biodata, land size, gives the financial history of this farmer over a period of time, thus giving them an economic identity.

In this initiative, about 3,200 farmers from 12 target cooperatives have been registered on the platform and are trading with the Rwanda grains and corn corporations.

These farmers have largely exceeded production targets with 805 metric tons of maize delivered in 2017. The portal of this whole contract was delivered by a cooperative called COOPCUMA in Gatsibo, which is led by a woman. This particular cooperative increased its maize production from 60 metric tonnes in 2015-16 to 155 metric tonnes in 2017.

What does this mean in monetary terms? This corresponds to a 25% increase in income – from 16,000 dollars to 65,000 dollars per annum – a strong indication of a great potential of leveraging ICT for economic growth and ensuring that you leave nobody behind.

While technology is inevitable, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that increased digitization brings additional threats including gender-based cyber violence, risks of being subjected to human trafficking, and the generalization of sexism and misogyny in online spaces that we must fight with the same intensity and urgency as we do when they occur in physical spaces.

Develop and implement policies and programmes that are needed to close this gender digital divide; policies that focus on improving online rights, ICT skills and education, access to the affordable internet, the creation of local and relevant content, within concrete time-bound targets.

I have examples of many different countries in Africa doing several good things. Allow me to commend the Government of Rwanda for having dedicated one pillar of the ‘Smart Rwanda Master Plan’ to women and youth empowerment. They have one dedicated pillar but they have ensured that the other six pillars have mainstreamed gender in their efforts to guide holistic digital transformation in the country.

We are not only talking about the digital gender gap but we are also talking about a gap in general in gender and development.

Invest in empowering women and girls with digital skills; increase their enrolment not only in STEM but in other related fields. Reward innovation among the youth through initiatives such as the Ms Geek and all girls scholarships by Carnegie Melon University. The UN family is working with Governments across the world with various partners to support initiatives aimed at enhancing girls in ICT.

Funds such as the Universal Service Access Funds are communal funds dedicated to expanding connectivity, opportunities to the un-served and the underserved. It is high time we get going. We have only three countries out of 37 that have used these funds to connect women and girls. I think we need to do much better.

We should fast-track the effective use of these funds to reduce the digital gender gap. Closing the digital gender gap is the golden key to unlock the door of the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based, innovation-driven, agile, open, competitive economy. Let’s do this!’



Hamadoun Touré: On norms that are discriminatory against women at workplaces and on barriers that are still invisible to us


‘Requiring ten or fifteen years of continuous experience was meant to eliminate men who had changed jobs and who haven’t had the continuous time in the same profession. But this was very discriminatory for a woman who has had a child and taken time off to take care of her child.

That time-out should be doubled and added to her experience. So, I eliminated that. As a result, the first person I was able to hire at the highest level in the United Nations system requirement level in administration below the elected officials, was a lady who was a mother of triplets. She was the best person in that position that I ever had. Of course, she took time off, but she spent eight years in that position.

Sometimes, there are little things that may be discriminatory – you may not notice them – but it is important to eliminate them once we find them.

Main takeaway from these discussions:

‘With technology evolutions, many of the problems we have today will be history. Because very soon robots would be replacing us, doing the jobs for us, making our lives easy and then we will be taking care of our families.

Having heard everything that has been said here, I would say education is important; role models are important. The political leaders need to make the necessary rules and regulations that should be in place for equal and fair treatment for everyone. Financing should be there from wherever the opportunities are arising.

To the youth, the key is self-confidence. Believe in yourself. Believe that tomorrow you are going to be somebody. Look at yourself in the mirror and see the person you want to be. If you don’t see that person, it is not going to happen. Nobody is going to do it for you. Please go ahead and believe in yourself and make your life significant.’


  1. Ms. Geek Africa

For the past five years, Girls in ICT Rwanda has successfully held a Ms. Geek competition to inspire girls into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields and be part of solving the continent’s challenges using technology.

Opening Remarks

Lucy Mbabazi, President, Girls in ICT, Janet Longmore, President and Chairman, DOT

Thank you everyone for being patient and staying for Ms Geek – the girls are beautiful, make no mistake, but these are brilliant minds. Girls in ICT is a group of women who work in various STEM fields and also mentor other girls and encourage them to join STEM fields and link them up with other role models as well so that we see more women in STEM and raise the next generation of women in ICT.’


Patience Gatera Umutesi, Country Director, Trademark EA Angela Ngang’a, Corporate Affairs Lead MEA Emerging Markets, Microsoft CorporationsJean Louis Kaliningondo, Project Manager & Information Technology Advisor, Rwanda Revenue Authority, Carole J Karema, IT Director, Crystal Ventures Ltd, Clement Uwajeneza, CEO, RwandaOnline

Special Interventions

Roland Lindenthal, Head of Department Education and Digital World

Moderated by

Gaelle Nsengiyumva, Software Engineer and Network Expert, Rwanda Energy Group Ltd

Closing Remarks

Hon. Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister of Youth, Rwanda.

The 2nd edition of Ms Geek Africa took place and ten contestants from across the continent met in Kigali. After a weeklong boot camp, Salissou Hassane Yari Latifa from Niger was crowned Ms Geek Africa 2018 for her ‘First Responder App’ that gives basic information to the community to be able to administer first aid to accident victims before the ambulance arrives. There was a standing ovation from the audience as the grand prize of Rwf 3 million ($3500) was announced.



Closing Remarks


Hamadoun Touré: ‘Every signature is the beginning of real action to get results’

First, I would like to congratulate the winner of Ms Geek Africa 2018 along with all the other finalists.

We promised that Transform Africa 2018 would be bigger, better and smarter. Once again, all our expectations have been exceeded. I thank you all for your contribution – more than 4,300 participants, 1,355 international visitors, and over 92 countries. Give yourselves a round of applause!

Many conversations and agreements were reached by more than 600 organizations. Smart Africa alone signed seven co-operation agreements spanning from accelerating the ‘Smart City Movement’ to expanding and promoting ‘Youth Innovation’.

And as usual, every signature is not an end but the beginning of the real action to get results. All that would not have happened without you. I would also like to take this moment to apologise for any inconvenience during registration to this moment, to your hotel arrangements or anything else. As you know whenever we make a mistake, we say wow we are human beings; we can make mistakes. However, at Smart Africa, we don’t want to make the same mistake twice and that is something we can promise.

This gives me the confidence to stand in front of you and pledge that Transform Africa 2019 will be once again ‘bigger, better and smarter.’


‘Save the Date’ for Transform Africa 2019

It is my great pleasure to proceed to a ‘Save the Date’ for Transform Africa 2019, which will take place here in Kigali on May 8-9, 2019. I am also proud to announce that the theme of this event has been set by our board under the leadership of H.E. Paul Kagame, Rwanda President and Chairman of the Board. The theme for next year has been set as ‘Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy.’ We will be looking forward to hosting all of you, especially the partners and sponsors who have joined us this year, led by Carnegie Melon University.

Ladies and Gentlemen! I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This brings us to the closing of this wonderful event. We want to see you over the course of the year; our next rendezvous should not just be in May 2019. We hope that each and every one of you will come to see us again. You have made new friends here during your time at Kigali and we hope this friendship would work towards the betterment of Africa. So thank you very much again.’





Vote of Thanks by Hon. Jean De Dieu Rurangirwa, Minister of Information Technology & Communications, Republic of Rwanda


‘We are inspired by the young innovators’

‘Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends! This year’s Transform Africa Summit has come to a close. It was your presence and contribution that has made this event a success. We are humbled that you were with us and we thank you sincerely for your participation. We are grateful for the official delegations and the sponsors who made the event possible. We appreciate the entrepreneurs and inventors who shared their experiences and vision for a better future. We also commend all the organizers behind the scenes who kept running things smoothly. Please join me as we congratulate all their efforts.

We are inspired by the young innovators who found the courage to stand in front of this crowd and pitch their ideas. You are the reason why we do all these things. And we are counting on you to continue pursuing your dreams and goals. There is no doubt that you will succeed and in doing so you will bring the rest of Africa along with you.

We had keywords coming up over and over again such as – Opportunities, Prosperity, Unity, Dignity and Equality, especially between men and women in technology. You witnessed it with Ms Geek Africa.

I saw commitment and determination in the eyes of everyone present here. To close on that note of respect and optimism, let’s put what we have learnt here into practice right away.

‘Transformation is happening and we are living it’

As the President of Rwanda H.E. Paul Kagame told us, ‘Africa is not poor. Only that we use our resources to consume rather than invest strategically.’ It is time for Africa to stop being the dark place on the map of global cyberspace and connectivity. We will shine as bright as other continents before too long. Before you head to the airport, please take time to visit our city. You are always welcome here in Rwanda and please feel at home. We want to see you here for the 5th Transform Africa Summit next May, if not before. Transformation is happening, and we are living it. Thank you once again and I wish you a safe journey.’


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