My brother, friend, Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia, I want to thank you for the remarks you have made, and I can’t agree with you more. There are many things that create problems for us in Africa that we have all the means to address. So, I hope we will pick inspiration from what you have just said.
A good afternoon to you all, and may I start by saying how happy I am to be with you in Victoria Falls, enjoying Zimbabwe’s legendary hospitality as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Smart Africa Alliance, and all built on it, like this Transform Africa Summit taking place here.
Thank you Mr President, President Mnangagwa, for making it possible for us.
Thank you President, once again, for giving us such a wonderful venue in which to convene again, after three years.
I also commend CEO Lacina Koné, and the staff of the Smart Africa Alliance, for leading the organization through the pandemic.
Transforming Africa means digitizing our economies. Already, many of the new high-quality jobs being created in Africa are powered by technology and connectivity. And that applies even to traditional sectors, such as agriculture, mining, and retail. This trend is only going to speed up.
Let me highlight some of the strategic levers that we can use to be ready.
Part one, everyone has to be connected to affordable broadband, and have a smart device. Mobile broadband has been spreading rapidly. But more than 60% of Africans who have access do not use it. We need to keep reducing costs.
Part two, a big piece of the puzzle is digital skills and literacy. One reason many Africans are not taking full advantage of the internet is that they are not yet comfortable with the interface, or it is in a language they don’t understand.
Part three, is digital identity and cybersecurity.
And part four is continental integration, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area or the One Africa Network. We need to make the digital identities of individuals and businesses portable across borders, while using technology to reduce barriers to trade.
All of these items are within our power to achieve. Our continental institutions, led by the African Union Commission, are already at work. We just need to move faster, with a sense of urgency.
Let me conclude with a word about artificial intelligence applications. This powerful technology has made headlines in recent weeks, for the most part, for the right reasons.
It is still unclear how it will affect existing jobs, and what safety concerns there will be.
But it is already possible to see, that Africa actually has the most to gain, because of how these applications can narrow productivity gaps between African firms and our competitors on the other continents.
We should therefore move quickly to embrace artificial intelligence, and make it work for us.
Once again, I thank our hosts, as well as the financial supporters, who make this event possible. And I thank all of you here today for contributing to the Smart Africa vision, particularly our guests from the private sector and start-up communities.
I wish you fruitful deliberations in the days ahead, and I thank you for your kind attention.