Written By Billy Rwothungeyo (New Vision)

The three day Transform Africa Summit is organized by the Smart Africa initiative championed by several African countries.

As Africa continues to lag behind the rest of the world in digital footprint, stakeholders at the ongoing Transform Africa summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali have called for more Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to lead the continent into the digital age.

Delivering his key note address yesterday at the opening of the summit at the Kigali Convention Centre, Rwandan president Paul Kagame said ICTs can be a powerful tool in the transformation of people’s lives.

“The word smart is about leveraging digital technologies to narrow the gap between the high quality services we need and those we can afford,” he said.

“Technology is a powerful framework for bringing diverse stakeholders to define challenges and find solutions. Transform Africa after all means transforming Africans by enabling a practical mindset of problem solving and discovery.”

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The Global Information Technology Report 2014 gives a damning assessment of Africa on the digital front.

“The region overall continues to suffer from a relatively poor ICT infrastructure, which remains costly to access, although some notable exceptions exist. More importantly, severe weaknesses persist in the region’s business and innovation ecosystems, which result in very low positive economic and social impacts,” the report says.

Dr Hamadoun Touré, the executive director of Smart Africa shared similar sentiments, saying the time is now to scale up the application of ICTs throughout the continent.

“3.5 billion people live in cities today, it is estimated that by 2030, almost 70% will live in urban areas, and 95% of urban expansions in the next decade will take place in the developing world. It is therefore imperative that Africa prepare themselves for this projected expansion through the advancement of ICTs in cities.”

“The time has come to transform African cities into smarter cities. We believe that  through the promotion of effective use of technologies in Africa, we will be advancing socio-economic transformation of the continent”

The three day Transform Africa Summit is organized by the Smart Africa initiative championed by several African countries. The first ever summit was held in Kigali in 2013, and it resulted into the adoption of the Smart Africa Manifesto document by seven African Heads of States, including President Yoweri Museveni, in which they committed to provide leadership in accelerating socio-economic development through ICT.

A year later, this manifesto was given a thumbs up by all heads of State and Government of the African Union at the 22nd Ordinary Session Assembly of the African Union in Ethiopia.