African Minds Gather To Discuss Digital Connectivity

For its first edition, the Transform Africa Economic Forum was arguably right up there with the most engaging, insightful and value-creating events.

Held at the magnificent Kigali Convention Center, the Forum took place before the Transform Africa Summit itself (which is in its fourth edition) and focused on addressing bottlenecks that are preventing Africa from leveraging digital connectivity as an enabler of the continent’s digital transformation.

On a panel moderated by Onica Makwakwa, Regional Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet at the Web Foundation, experts representing telcos, government, and NGOs discussed the potential opportunities and key factors on which the future of Africa’s technological potential hinged.

Obviously, none of the proposals by the experts will amount to anything without policy support if digital connectivity is to play a role in the realization of a smarter Africa. That is evident in the many regulatory failures recorded across the continent over the past few years.

Panelist and Group CEO of MTN, Rob Shuter, also echoed this sentiment saying, “Cyber Security and fraud are a big concern in the digital world. The more harmonisation of policies, implementation and innovations, the smoother the integrations will be.”

But it’s not just about policy and relevant frameworks, it’s also about partnerships and an enabling environment for big and small businesses to innovate and build for the future. As pointed out by another panelist and GM of Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, Amrote Abdella, creating an ecosystem where access to technology is all-inclusive and affordable is super important and it can only be realised with effective partnerships and an enabling business environment.

“It’s instrumental to get the right policies in place to make the single digital market a reality…how do we build capacities and right skills as well as enabling environment for the youth, startups and entrepreneurs to thrive and become globally competitive? Technology plays a critical role,” She said.

Investment on the part of stakeholders is also key to Africa’s digital ascension – both in infrastructure and other relevant aspects of the sector – is also a important peg that needs the right hole to fit in as expressed by Atef Helmy, Senior Director at Orange, MEA, especially as the France-based telco has invested an average of $1 billion annually in its Africa business.

When it’s all said and done, these posits, ideas and opinions are crucial to pushing forward Africa’s ICT agenda because conversations like these lay the pathway for government policy, private sector participation/investment and ecosystem innovation – all of which play a role in elevating Africa to its true technological potential.

That is why platforms like the Transform Africa Economic Forum are good for Africa, because they let us share ideas, learn and take ownership of our future, together.

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