President Kagame co-chairs Broadband Commission Meeting, addresses Transform Africa Economic Forum

News

President Kagame co-chairs Broadband Commission Meeting, addresses Transform Africa Economic Forum

President Kagame co-chairs Broadband Commission Meeting, addresses Transform Africa Economic Forum
Photo credit: Government of Rwanda

President Paul Kagame this morning co-chaired the opening of the 2018 Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development Annual Spring Meeting alongside Co-chair, Carlos Slim, and Co-Vice Chair and ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao.

The broadband commission brings together leaders from the private sector, policy makers, government representatives, international agencies and academia to provide a variety of perspectives with the aim of developing a joint approach to promote broadband for public benefit.

Speaking at the opening of the commission’s working group meeting, President Kagame noted that Africa’s economic transformation requires broadband infrastructure with an emphasis on both access and affordability.

“The reality is that all other digital services whether in commerce or education or healthcare run on top of broadband. Africa’s size, geography and settlement patterns mean that we must rely on a variety of different technologies to deliver broadband including satellite, fibre optic and mobile. It is up to us to lead the way in driving innovation both in policy and business models in order to speed up the provision of broadband where it has been slowest to reach,” President Kagame said.

President Kagame also delivered a Keynote Address at the opening of the Transform Africa Economic Forum which deliberated on the vision for a smart Continental Free Trade Area.

President Kagame highlighted the need for continental integration as a solution to many problems faced by Africans.

“The idea I wish to share is that technological integration should be seen as the vanguard of economic integration more generally. If you look at the purpose of integrating technology, it is to serve all of us and our businesses and other things. Then people have complained that if you are moving from Kigali, as a passenger on the plane, and you want to go, let’s say, to one part of West Africa.

“I go to Conakry, to Abidjan, to Lagos, to Accra, to Dakar… I’m sure in this audience there are people who have had close to a dozen stopovers, half of them maybe on our continent. Sometimes to fly home here, you have to go to Europe, maybe from one city to another in Europe, then to another city in Africa, and then another one in Africa as well.”

The Economic Forum aims at highlighting potential cross-border initiatives for investment and partnership opportunities relevant to African Continental Free Trade Area. The Agreement was signed by 44 African countries during the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union held in Kigali on 21 March 2018.

The Transform Africa Economic Forum precedes Transform Africa Summit 2018, which runs from 8-9 May 2018.

In its fourth edition, Transform Africa Summit is a leading annual continental forum that convenes global and regional leaders from government, business and international organizations to collaborate on new ways of shaping, accelerating and sustaining Africa’s on-going digital revolution.


Opening remarks by President Paul Kagame at the Transform Africa Economic Forum

Kigali, 7 May 2018

The idea I wish to share is that technological integration should be seen as the vanguard of economic integration more generally.

If you look at the purpose of integrating technology, it is to serve all of us, our businesses and other things as well.

People have complained that if you are moving from Kigali, as a passenger on a plane, and you want to go, let’s say, to one part of West Africa, you would go to Conakry, to Abidjan, to Lagos, to Accra, to Dakar…

I’m sure in this audience there are people who have had close to a dozen stopovers, half of them maybe on our continent. Sometimes to fly home from here, you have to go to Europe, maybe from one city to another in Europe, then to another city in Africa, and then another one in Africa as well.

So when people talk about one common digital market or one common air transport market, I think the purpose is to solve some of these problems.

When you are integrating technology, I think it must be looked at holistically. When you are integrating our regions and countries, the whole continent, all these things should be coming to mind.

I’m sure people here know it very well, better than me, how even when we are communicating by phone, the traffic follows the same route as the planes I was talking about. Doesn’t it?

Sometimes it has to go some places outside of Africa and then back to us. What are you integrating, if you don’t include this? Why don’t we have that happening on our continent without having to pay for a visa for the traffic to first go out of our continent and then receive it back. It requires a visa, which comes in the form of how much you pay.

Is this something we can’t address? We are supposedly very proud Africans, businesses and governments, and I think we need to work hard on that. It’s one of the things people should be looking at so that we are able to have results as soon as we can. We still have a long way to go.

Regional cooperation on technology has produced good results to some extent on our continent in recent years.

Meanwhile, other urgent integration projects have languished on the African agenda, sometimes for decades. We surely can find ways of speeding that up. It is beginning to change, and with a forum such as this, bringing together so many people with diverse backgrounds, I think we can make it happen faster.

Technology cooperation is part of that story. But behind it there has to be political will in real terms. Political will is not confined to the public sector. I think business leaders need that political will as well because it comes with the thinking and what you connect with, in the interest of our continent and our people.

Technology comes with a common set of standards, and a shared vocabulary as well, which is another positive. Our people, especially our youth, have to eagerly embrace the digital economy and expect to play a full part in it.

Innovation is also anchored in the private sector in terms of both research and distribution of products and services.

On the government side, there has been a positive trend of entrusting professional regulatory agencies with the mission to encourage this sector and regulate it in the public interest. That helps prevent politics from slowing things down.

In other words, there is a natural ecosystem that facilitates cooperation among governments and partnership with the private sector, which of course you can’t take for granted. We have to work hard at it with everybody playing their part, so that what we see in the results and outcomes reflects what has been behind it.

Examples of successful regional integration, such as Smart Africa’s focus on One Africa Network, have helped lay the groundwork for even more ambitious projects, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area.

It has helped simply by providing practical confirmation of the truth that we have everything to gain from working together, and also being more connected. Today’s discussions are therefore very welcome.

We will continue to advance on the digital transformation agenda championed by the African Union, Smart Africa, the Broadband Commission, as well as the many external partners here with us supporting these efforts.

At the same time, let’s build on that momentum to stay on course with implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will unlock tremendous opportunities for our region and our world.

I wish you a successful meeting and look forward to being with you again at the Summit tomorrow morning. Thank you very much for your kind attention.