Good morning.It is a pleasure to welcome you all to Kigali for this fourth Transform Africa Summit.
Before I proceed, let me address something that was forgotten. No introduction was made of Djibouti, represented here by the minister. I just wanted to mention that Djibouti was one of the founder-members of the Smart Africa Alliance, so I wanted to let you know that you are not forgotten for geographical reasons, which is common with countries like mine, but we make sure we are remembered for very big things.
We are honoured by the presence of delegations from every corner of our continent and beyond, and especially by the Honourable Ministers here representing their Heads of State today.
The support of the sponsors and partners of this event is greatly appreciated,particularly Carnegie Mellon University. Thank you for your commitment to Smart Africa’s mission.
Similarly, we are encouraged that businesses and entrepreneurs are so strongly engaged in these efforts. I also congratulate Dr Hamadoun Touré and his team at the Smart Africa Secretariat for their hard work.
There is no doubt that technology is the foundation of modern, high-income economies. That is why we are investing so much in physical infrastructure and in the education required to use it.
These efforts are already bearing fruit.However, even the most advanced technology cannot compensate for shortcomings in other areas which are essential for economic competitiveness.
Let me highlight a few of these,beginning with regional integration and cooperation, which is absolutely central.
As discussed at the Economic Forum yesterday, political will, both from governments and the private sector, is essential in implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area.This agreement will transform Africa, but only if we translate its provisions into reality on the ground.
Secondly, a favourable investment climate is critical in order to build trust in African economies, attract the right partnerships, and spur innovation.Indeed, many African countries are already among the leaders in business-friendly reforms.
But achieving good rankings is not an end in itself.The goal is to attract more and better investment, and that requires effectively communicating these facts to global markets, and even to our own investors right here in Africa.
That brings me to the third point, which is that we must work harder to ensure that African private capital is mobilised to participate fully in major projects on our continent.
There is this myth that we always have to look outside the continent to fund major initiatives. But this simply cannot be true when Africa is losing billions every year through lost taxes, sending private assets abroad, and other factors.
We are not poor, not at all.
The issue has more to do with 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.
Whether this comes from colonialism or not, is irrelevant. It is up to us to identify mindsets that hold us back as a continent, and change how we do business.
What these few elements remind us is that the application of technology and innovation takes place in a wider context.We must harness all these factors together holistically to achieve the results that our people expect and deserve.
One example I might mention is the effort by the African Union and the International Telecommunications Union, together with the private sector, to bring broadband to under-served communities by harmonising spectrum and standards.
Let me conclude by commending the prominent participation of youth and women in Transform Africa, including through the pitching platform “Face the Gorillas”, and the Smart Women Summit, taking place tomorrow.Our strategic investments in technology and education will only have their full impact if they are matched by efforts to ensure all sectors of our society can access the benefits.
I thank you for your kind attention and wish you productive discussions, and an enjoyable stay in Rwanda, as well as I welcome you back to Rwanda anytime for different engagements.
Thank you very much.