By Shingirai Vambe
The road map to build a $300 billion investment in a transformed Africa has been given a boost at the just-ended Transform Africa Summit in the resort town of Victoria Falls where five Heads of State, 4000 delegates and over 90 countries participated.
At the event, the Director General and CEO Lacina emphasised the need for an accelerated move towards a single digital market by 2030.
The summit was officially opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The other Heads of State were President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia and King Mswati III of eSwatini.
The Summit ran concurrently with the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair held in Bulawayo.
Among many other things, Chakwera and Hichilema emphasised the need to digitize government systems by member states.
In particular, Hichilema urged governments to take transformation seriously as means to improve efficiency and tax revenue, and to fight corruption.
“We have set our eyes high in terms of our ambitions towards digital development on our continent, we must set our ambitions high on everything that we do, because we are running behind. Digital market development is very important on the economic and social development front, and it is for this reason that the digital agenda to make Africa a single digital market becomes relevant so that we are able to create jobs for over 1.2 billion youths who are without jobs in Africa,” Hichilema said.
He said Africa cannot afford to avoid digitization in any economic sectors.
“We need technology. We need digital platforms in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, to mention just a few. We need us to be digitally equipped,” Chakwera said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa did not attend the summit as the dates coincided with his country celebrating Freedom Day on April 27.
Some participants told Post On Sunday that they had expected the summit to have a higher attendance by locals since it was the first time that the gathering was hosted by Zimbabwe and outside of Rwanda.
The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutavangwa only attended the opening ceremony before leaving for the ZITF.
Only ICT minister Jenfan Muswere, his deputy, Dingumuzi Phuti and permanent secretary in the ministry, Beaullah Chirume attended to the last hour.
Interestingly, Rwanda brought a strong team, journalists and quality equipment.
One of the issues that were emphasised was energy security.
Many participants said the region needed to invest more in renewable energy to allow more people to enjoy access.
In her contributions, Chirume said government had made strides in solarising schools for connectivity through the support of partners like United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
After the summit, ITU, UNICEF, Net*One Dandemutande, UN converged at Ndlovu Secondary School in Matebeleland North, in Hwange to officially handover a fully-equipped computer laboratory donated by POTRAZ, showing the model and structure at which Zimbabwe was moving in as far as digitizing the economy and schools through the Giga programme.
Digital exclusion particularly affects those who are already most likely to be the farthest behind.
Girls, children with disabilities, and children growing up in poverty being among the worst off.
The Giga program is connecting world’s students to the internet one school at a time.
It identifies strengthens, and brings new innovations in software, learning systems, and content that supports telework, tele-education, tele-health, and financial services.
All of these can be deployed at low-cost, at small scale, and can be customized to local languages.
International Telecommunication Union(ITU) director Cosmas Zavazava was the guest of honour at Ndlovu Secondary school where he said it was useless to connect the world if it is not positively going to impact the people.
“We have to use technology to save lives, deliver health care and education, and to have the new generation inspired. I must caution that we must not live out anybody. In Thailand, they celebrate girls in ICT in the morning and boys in the afternoon,” said Zavazava.
Earlier Zavazava told delegates that there is still existing digital gap in Africa.
“I want to thank all our partners, Estonia, GIZ, UNDP, World Bank, UNICEF, to mention just a few. as we know the gender gap in tech is significant in four areas, internet use and access, digital skills and tools, steam participation, leadership and entrepreneurship. Globally woman comprise just 16 percent of Bachelor’s degree gratuants in computer science, they hold less than 20 percent of tech leadership roles, that something we should be concerned about; only 19 percent of senior vice presidents and 15 percent of CEO according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) we need women in tech for equal participation,” said Zavazva
He congratulated the ministry and POTRAZ for doing what ICT regulators in many other countries failed to do.
He said ITU will be introducing the Universal Service Funds 2.0, adding that from June 5 – 8 2023, all regulators will be in Egypt for a global symposium because the future was built around the digital.
This, he said, made it a necessity to have a conversation in order to avoid missing the target of the 2030 agenda.
Director General and CEO for the Smart Africa, Lacina Kone closed the 2023 summit which he described as a historic event which attracted five heads of state, 44 ministers and 4000 delegates from 91 countries.
“The summit was characterised by signing of various agreements including a $1.5 million project by Smart Africa and the African Development Bank to streamline digital trade and e-commerce policies across 10 African countries.
An agreement was also reached between Smart Africa and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat to enhance collaboration in information and communication technology for the development of a single digital market for Africa.
“Another landmark achievement was the signing of the Smart Africa Trust Alliance (SATA) by eight founding member states to connect all systems through a trust framework,” Kone said.
On his part, deputy minister Phuti said he was humbled by the subscription to this 6th edition of the Transform Africa Summit held for the first time outside of Rwanda.
“If you want to go fast, go alone and if you want to go far, go with others. This cannot be amplified better than it has been by your presence here,” said Phuti.