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‘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

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 crossborder 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 cooperation 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 Read more….

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