The 12th edition of the annual CIO100 Symposium and Awards, 2020, kicked off today with a keynote address from Didier Nkurikiyimfura, Director of Technology and Innovation at the Smart Africa Secretariat. Held virtually, Didier, the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer (CTIO) of the institution declared the need for a new way of thinking if the world is to be shifted to a digital economy.
“The world as we created it, is the process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. The urgency presented by the new normal changes requires mobilisation of our talents and capacity. The pandemic is stressing out established systems across all divides, and the only alternative is to find ways of accelerating solutions.”
Smart Africa rounds up seven African Heads of State. The brainchild of the Transform Africa Summit, Kigali, Rwanda 2013 came to a head with the adoption of the Smart Africa Manifesto. The presidents (Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso), united to “jointly accelerate socio-economic development through ICTs nationally and on the continent level.” Out came the Smart Africa Manifesto in 2014, a bridge across generations.
In an event that brings the innovators from across the region, Didier highlights the critical mass that Africa will need to attain to move forward. “COVID has made lives tough world over making digital transformation as the new normal a very relevant conversation. 60 per cent of African are below age 25 making it the youngest continent. It translates into a future job market that ought to be a digital-savvy workforce that will participate in the African digital economy.”
To further awaken the continent, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will come into force in January 2021. It will have a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion according to the UN Economic Commission of Africa. The African digital economy is right now a mere 1.3 per cent of the global economy. Yet the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has seen oodles of potential, predicting the e-Conomy will be worth $180 billion by 2025 and $712 billion by 2050.
This brings us to the Smart Africa Alliance, an initiative whose vision it is to develop a vibrant single digital market by 2030. The Smart Africa Alliance like anyone who seeks to survive, nay even thrive during the pandemic, is looking at its practical roadmap. Working closely with the African Union (AU), African ICT ministers, telecommunication regulators, along with the private sector, development partners, civil society and academia to champion digital initiatives.
“The new normal is perfectly aligned with Smart Africa Alliance’s practical approach to accelerate digital transformation.” For that, they identified three strategic objectives, each with its own specific project from data centres, bandwidth, capacity building, a scholarship fund and many others.
- Build affordable digital infrastructure to interconnect to the continent
- Promote and facilitate doing business and investing across Africa through several initiatives
- Accelerate the birth and development of a digital society.
“Partnerships have proven essential to digital transformation. It is very exciting that CIO East Africa has created and harnessed a platform such as this that can converge like minds to review and celebrate our leaders and milestones,” Didier notes.
It would be easy to feel smug about how East Africa is advancing when it comes to digital transformation. One, however, has to simply glance at the response the pandemic induced. It led to a global crisis, accelerating digital transformation through sheer will and force. No other lesson could have been as harsh or as profound.
Didier, with a partnership and acceleration mindset, thus concludes, “We must prepare to push harder and faster. We have to innovate. We have to get the public and private sector working in ways they haven’t done before. They say change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle, and the best at the end.”
Day Two continues tomorrow from 9 am. Register here so that you don’t miss all the insights and ideas that form part of the CIO100 Megatrends Report 2020.
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