On Wednesday, the third Transform Africa Summit got underway in Kigali. The 2017 Summit brings together over 3,500 delegates from across Africa and the globe to discuss how African cities can leverage data and technology to efficiently handle their unique and complex challenges.
The Summit, which runs from until 12 May, serves as a platform for leaders from the public and private sectors, international organisations, academia and civil society to look at ways to boost Africa’s digital transformation.
In a conversation on African Smart Cities and the partnerships that foster the transition to innovation-based societies, President Paul Kagame called on leaders across Africa to leverage ICT towards improving citizens’ wellbeing.
“Africa is not as prosperous as it should be because our cities are too small and disconnected. This situation is changing rapidly and Africa looks set to emerge as one of the planet’s great centres of growth, innovation, and opportunity in the generations ahead,” Kagame said.
He also encouraged leaders and private sector players to put technology in the hands of African citizens in order to build inclusive and sustainable places to live.
The President also observed that technology is a powerful framework for bringing diverse stakeholders together to define challenges and find solutions.
“If technology is entrenching divides, rather than equalising opportunities, then we are not harnessing it well. Access to technology information must also not distinguish between rich and poor. So long as women and girls are lagging behind then we are not on the right track. We must deliver on technology’s promise to bridge divides, rather than deepen them,” Kagame remarked.
On low connectivity in Africa, the President said this should be regarded as an opportunity rather than a challenge.
“This must be regarded as an opportunity for stronger public-private collaboration. In Rwanda, our partnership with Korea Telecom has already served to speed up our progress toward the broadband target. Africa has to be connected, and why not at the highest possible speeds. Our future wellbeing, depends on how well we respond to these challenges, right now,” he stressed
During the Summit’s opening, the Africa Smart Cities Blueprint was unveiled. Resulting from the Rwandan example on the Smart Cities flagship project, the Blueprint was jointly developed by actors from the Smart Africa Member States, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, academia and civil society.
The Blueprint highlights key building blocks for African Smart Cities, outlines policy and regulation considerations and the financing models to fast-track the transition to sustainable smart cities.
The Smart Cities initiative aims to leverage technology solutions to improve efficiency in cities’ service delivery. This has seen Rwanda roll out various developments including Wi-Fi in public areas and public transport vehicles as well as cashless payment systems in different public and private services.
President Faure Gnassignbe of Togo, Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada and First Lady Nana Trovoada of São Tomé and Príncipe, First Lady Jeannette Kagame of Rwanda, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, Vice President Inonge Wina of Zambia, and ICT Ministers from across the continent also attended the opening plenary.