President Kagame places technology at the center of Africa’s future

By Nicole Kamanzi M.
On 22 October 2020 at 01:50

President Paul Kagame has stated that Rwanda’s ambition is to put technology at the center of its development plans, pointing out that it will even be more vital in helping the country recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Head of State made the observation on Wednesday during the World Economic Forum (WEF) Great Reset Dialogue under the theme “Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, alongside the President of Colombia, Ivan Duque and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Kagame pointed out some of the different initiatives by the government and the private sector to integrate technology in different spheres of the economy and how they have paid off, saying that technology is an enabler when it comes to service delivery and equipping young people with the right skills.

“Over the past 20 years, Rwanda has continued to prioritize investment in technology, broadband, and digital skills,” President Kagame said, pointing out some of the partnerships Rwanda has built with global tech companies.

“We have enjoyed partnership with the technology companies; you mentioned the use of drones. We have had the opportunity to partner with the company Zipline that has invested with us in Rwanda in drone technology,” President Kagame said, adding that the country is able to use the drones in the health sector, to deliver blood in rural parts of the country.

President Kagame pointed out the importance of such partnerships between the private sector and government which deliver for the people and help address challenges in different sectors such as health and education.

“We have also forged a partnership with the World Economic Forum, which we are very happy with. We have benefited from that partnership where we have created the centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution here in Rwanda,” he said adding that the centre will not only benefit the country but the entire continent.

“The partnership has extended to even other countries. We have patterned with WEF, countries like Israel, Singapore and these are advanced in many cases in this area and we have benefited from this partnership, which we hope to broaden and continue with other countries,” President Kagame said.

The Head of State said that in building such partnerships, the private sector has continually been pivotal in making sure that they bring in the necessary resources for the Investment, but also the know-how through technology.

“We really have this vision where not only do we develop these capacities within our own country, but also across the continent and each country in our continent has made their own investments,” he said, calling for more linkages of such continental structures especially for young people to leverage them.

“We have made our investments and we have seen progress for our people, for our Industries, but also across the continent of Africa and we have seen young people take up this opportunity to be involved with the development and in the innovations and the interpretation of the partnership that comes around,” he said.

The president spoke of the role of the private sector in building public private partnerships where government leaders like himself also participate with the aim of ensuring that this technological development is harmonized to deliver results.

He said that the participation of leaders in the process is to ensure that there is the needed regulatory environment across Africa that makes it easy to know “what to expect with each other and among ourselves”.

He said that African countries are aware that technology innovation is moving very fast and this puts pressure on regulators to find the right balance so that countries are able to work together, especially in the context of the new Continental Free Trade Area, which he said will create the largest market across the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, considered one of the world’s most technologically innovative countries, similarly argued that investment in technological skills are important to create a digital world.

“Technological education that starts below (with those who don’t have skills) is important, but there has to be high skilled individuals,” he said.

He added that Israel has adopted a deliberate strategy to increase the number of skilled individuals in technology, highlighting that the number with first time degree students in Information and Communications has in the recent increased by 70 per cent.

However, Netanyahu indicated that many countries risk creating digital divide, saying it was critical to invest in infrastructure such as computers, fibre internet and provide access to other technology tools to those who cannot afford them.

President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia, on the other hand, emphasized the need for creating an enabling environment for players to work, especially those that want to invest in emerging technology.

He mentioned Colombia’s case which has created a framework for development of artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and financial technology (FinTech), among other things.

“A regulatory sandbox was put in place to accelerate access to smartphones to boost FinTech. We have seen the largest FinTech penetration, and we have started accelerating these services,” he noted.