Monday morning, as the 2nd edition of Transform Africa prepared to kick off, I got ready to attend with my fully charged mobile devices in tow all set to witness Africa’s tech leaders tackle the challenges of our continent from an ICT perspective. I stumbled in feeling like a bit of an impostor, ready to labour (I was on duty, after all) and almost got run off by all the techies and journalists vying for a chance to speak to their idols/IT moguls. While I attended with the impression that the conference did not concern me much, I came to realize that ICT is the future (duh, I know!) and that one’s chances to succeed in life will greatly improve when ready to embrace this movement.
Transform Africa Summit is a platform that brings the continent’s top political and business leaders together to shape Africa’s digital transformation agenda (transformafrica2015.org). Launched in 2013 and now in its 2nd edition, the event is hosted for the second time in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. The conference gathered representatives from 81 countries and over 850 companies-now how’s that for global representation- to discuss ways to drive forward Africa’s digital agenda.
Rwanda was well suited to hold this conference as it competes to become a SMART country, a regional ICT hub and bridge the gap in digital inclusion countrywide. Additionally, according to my sources, Rwanda stands out as a host country for 3 very important reasons: 1. Ease of transport 2. Security and 3. Internet Access.
While the conference covered a lot of ICT and digital concepts that don’t often get the light of day in my daily conversations, I would like to share some takeaways. As follows are some topics that really resonated with me:
1. Africa is a goldmine. Let’s face it, some of us are already well aware of this fact but judging by what the numerous foreign panelists had to say, it is grand time for our generation to tap into Africa’s potential before the rest of the world gets in on the secret.
2. ICT solutions can solve the world’s greatest problems. Well, I guess this statement depends on what you perceive to be the world’s greatest problems but from e-health services for remote communities, to apps for farmers, and voice recognition softwares for the blind, ICT covers it all.
3. If you are not connected, then what are you waiting for? Using ICT to grow your company is the next big thing. Maybe nothing new for some but with only a minority of the population accessing the internet in Rwanda, it can be difficult to fathom how ICT can be used as a tool to accelerate growth.
4. We need more local content. This is probably the most redundant topic of the event but a highly relevant one. The primary issue surrounding this one are the high costs associated with such. So, here’s to hoping all these talks will inspire responsible parties to reduce the burden.
5. Rwanda is the way forward. I am always reminded of how awesome Rwanda is when I hear foreigners react in awe at some of the things happening in our country. For example, two panelists referred to 2 individual ministers as a super rockstar and as East Africa’s rock chick. While, I was floored by those comments, I know they were meant to be humorous. One lady said to me she was so impressed she could load videos on her mobile compared to other African countries she’s visited. While many expressed their delight at accessing 4G wifi on the conference shuttle buses.
From the airport to the venue, the city was branded with Transform Africa banners. The Twittersphere was flooded with tweets on Transform Africa. Attendees and those who could not be there engaged in lively discussions via the hashtag #TransformAfrica2015. As a first time attendee, I was impressed by the venue, the panelists, the insightful information and the overall energy. Transform Africa really deserves the reputation it has built up.