Officially opening the continent’s digital economy summit in the Rwandan capital, President Paul Kagame called the task to advance Africa’s digital economy agenda “a pan-African responsibility.”
Africans need to realize “the depth and breadth of our responsibility in realizing the digital agenda which supports the broader development agenda,” Kagame told the packed auditorium on Day 2 of the Transform Africa Summit taking place at the Kigali Conference Center.
Two African heads of state, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali, backed Kagame’s call to support Africa’s digital agenda with an enabling environment – resources, policies, partnership and action.
“We need to seize the opportunities of the new market,” President Keita said.
Far from lagging behind, Africa has led in innovation in the digital space, Kenyatta said, citing Mpesa’s immensely successful mobile money platform as an example. With Mpesa Kenya has seen almost 97% of its population gain access to financial services, Kenyatta said.
Earlier Wednesday, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina held closed door talks with President Kagame on the Bank’s relationship with Rwanda.
In 2018, the Bank extended a loan of $30mn to the Government of Rwanda for the creation of the Rwanda Innovation Fund. The fund will invest in growth technology-enabled ventures across Africa, and the government of Rwanda will invest a further $8mn in a technical assistance pool to develop new businesses.
Digital startups in finance, agriculture and business are changing the face of Africa’s digital economy. From mobile money to e-commerce, Africa is beginning to get into the game. But for that to translate into greater benefits, enhancing connectivity will have to be a priority.
Bank Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization Pierre Guislain on Wednesday co-chaired a meeting of the EU-AU Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) with Ghanaian Communications and ICT Minister Ursulla G. Owusu-Ekuful, the other co-chair. The task force, composed of 20 African and EU decision makers, private sector, international institutions and civil society representatives, is working on “taking the EU-Africa cooperation to the digital age” by finding ways Europe and Africa can partner to draw mutual benefits from the digital transformation of economy and society. The Task force meeting was opened by AU Commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid and EC acting director Lorena Boix Alonso.
“Our objective is to identify major opportunities to accelerate digital development on the Continent and set the stage for deeper partnerships in the digital economy area under the Africa-Europe Investment and Jobs Alliance framework“ Guislain said.
“The DETF work offers yet another opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the European Commission and its member states in order to jointly develop programmes and projects to accelerate digitization on the Continent,” Guislain said.
Opening up of national markets, a nurturing enabling environment for companies with the ability and vision to deliver goods and services across the region, and financing will be needed to ensure that momentum is sustained.
Guislain also participated as representative of the African Development Bank in a Smart Africa board meeting chaired by President Kagame.
Among the key topics on the table at this year’s Summit are the role of the digital economy in accelerating regional and continental integration, the development of a single digital market in Africa, harmonization of conducive policy and regulatory frameworks, including labor and data mobility, and measures to foster full participation of women and youth in the digital economy.