Kigali, 15 May 2019
I begin by thanking you all for your presence today, most especially the Heads of State. I will try to be brief, but also bearing in mind that I have to try and give a speech that competes with Sofia’s. The lady who visited us from so far away packed in a bag, and only a bunch of wires that make so much sense, So I’ll do my best.
I want to commend Smart Africa for organising the Transform Africa Summit and bringing together an impressive range of partners, innovators, and policy-makers. The participation of so many of Africa’s ICT ministers is particularly significant.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge Smart Africa’s new Director-General, Lacina Koné. I wish you every success in this critical, pan-African responsibility. And go ahead to also, once again, recognise Dr Hamadoun Touré for being in our midst and being associated with the origin of this great idea. Thank you very much.
We are in the era of the digital economy. Remaining behind is not an option anymore for Africa. It never was, but we thought or acted like it was.
Is Africa ready to fully take part in the Fourth Industrial Revolution? This is really the heart of the matter, and I want to suggest that we have only been waiting for ourselves.
Economic transformation and prosperity require mastery of technology. Now is the time to build the necessary infrastructure and skills in Africa.
There is a great deal at stake for our continent, which is why African governments came together to establish Smart Africa in the first place, with the private sector as a key partner from the outset.
I would like to emphasise a few key points about Smart Africa’s role. First and foremost is the importance of keeping Africa together in this mission in terms of the digital agenda. Collaboration is the only way for us to navigate successfully through the complex global dynamics we have to face.
There are always tendencies to want to marginalise or divide our continent for various reasons. We know better not to go along with this.
Africa can only protect our peoples’ interests and increase the size of our market through integration and cooperation. This is especially the case when it comes to harmonising laws and regulations, and ensuring that Africa’s ICT infrastructure is managed in a sensible way.
The emergence of a common African agenda on ICTs should not be a source of worry to anyone, but encouragement instead. It is long overdue. In the end, greater African unity will benefit both Africa and its partners globally.
Digital transformation does not mean neglecting traditional manufacturing. Africa must be competitive in both. The African Continental Free Trade Area has now entered into force. We must keep Africa’s industrialisation and technology agendas in close alignment.
Technology connects the world like never before. Access to knowledge has become much more equitable as a result. At the same time, let’s not be empty vessels, using broadband internet merely to consume the content and ideas produced by others.
We are innovators and thinkers. We have our own products to sell (or we should have). We have our own stories to tell.
Allow me to close with a happy announcement that our next host of the 6th Transform Africa Summit in 2020 will be the Republic of Guinea. We thank the president also, His Excellency President Alpha Condé, for his strong support for Smart Africa.
I welcome you once again and I look forward to interacting with you in the next session. I wish you a happy stay in our country and good deliberations. I thank you for your kind attention.