President Paul Kagame on Tuesday, October 21, made case for increased investment in technology, saying it will drive Africa’s transformation and the world’s future.
He was speaking at a World Economic Forum organised virtual event alongside Israel Prime, Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Colombia’s President Iván Duque.
Kagame shared Rwanda’s experience, highlighting deliberate efforts the government has taken to pave the way for financial resources into the technology sector to drive the country’s growth.
“Over the past 20 years, Rwanda has continued to prioritise investment in technology, broadband and digital skills,” he said.
While Africa has been left behind in many ways, Kagame argued that there are many problems that technology can bring solutions for.
“That’s why we prioritised investment in technology and infrastructure that supports that,” he noted.
The Head of State indicated that Rwanda’s quest to invest in technology and the need to address Africa’s challenges has seen leaders come up with broader plans for the continent – the Smart Africa Alliance.
“The Smart Africa Alliance which we have created with other countries on the continent brings together the private sector and government leaders to play a central role,” he said.
The aim, he added, is to harmonise the regulatory environments across Africa so that countries know what to expect from each other.
Kagame said Rwanda has enjoyed partnership with technology companies, highlighting the case of Zipline which has partnered with the government to deliver medical supplies to rural hospitals.
“We also have forged a partnership with the World Economic Forum to create a centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a proof of concept for Rwanda and the African region,” he stated.
Kagame added that Rwanda has extended partnership with countries including Israel and Singapore that have enabled the country to build technological capabilities.
“The young people have taken advantage of the opportunities and led the innovation space and entrepreneurship around that,” he said.
Creating digital skills
In the conversation, moderated by the President of the World Economic Forum Borge Brende, President Kagame insisted that investment in technology, particularly technology skills could prepare young people for the future.
“Most children entering primary schools today, we are aware, will work in jobs that do not yet exist. So the curriculum has to be flexible and future-oriented with technology skills as a priority,” he said.
To achieve that, he reiterated that the private sector is important to bring on board investment.
Prime Minister 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 Duque, on 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.