By Isaac Aregbesola
Kigali – President of Rwanda Paul Kagame has called on African leaders to develop political will and sense of urgency to enable the implementation of digital integration and rollout of initiatives in the continent.
Kagame made the appeal at the Transform Africa Summit 2017, an Information Communications Technology (ICT) conference in Kigali, Rwanda, aimed at developing cities through advancement of technology.
The Leader’s Summit was attended by other Heads of State and Government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Rwanda is hosting the third Transform Africa Summit attended by other Heads of State and Government and ICT experts.
The summit focused on developing ‘smart cities’, an initiative spearheaded by Rwanda.
The smart cities initiative, aims at leveraging technology solutions to improve efficiency of cities, has seen Rwanda roll out a number of developments such as WiFi in public areas, including public transport vehicles, as well as cashless payment systems in public transport.
Currently, the initiative is backed by 11 African countries while more nations including Nigeria are expected to join.
Kagame said that “the political will’ was more essential than the huge financial investments needed to fix infrastructure and put in place the enabling physical environment to drive change on the continent.
“We need to invest in infrastructure but we need to invest more in our political will and sense of urgency, starting with what we already have and what is possible within our means,” Kagame said.
The president said some players fail to understand the overall benefits of digital integration.
He noted that a number of East African member states have begun rolling out the One Area Network.
This, he said, enabled cheap voice calls within the region, but some parties were hesitant largely due to assumptions that they would lose out on revenue.
“Some people genuinely feel that we are going to lose while others were gaining which could have been a result of lack of understanding.
“In actual fact everyone benefits, be it those who have made investments in these technologies, be it the ordinary citizens, the private sector, everybody benefits,” Kagame explained
He explained that the ‘One Area Network” was conceived to connect the African countries together to substantially reduce or eliminate roaming charges for call across the continent.
However, bureaucratic hindrances have been singled out as partly contributing to slow pace in the implementation of ‘One area network’ initiative among African countries.
Kagame said the delay to scale up the One Area Network was not due to lack of technology or skills but lack of sense of urgency.
“We are really left behind by other regions of this world. I don’t think it is because Africans are incapable of doing things the way we should or be where others are or even go beyond,” he said.
The Nigerian Minister of Communication, Mr Adebayo Shittu, who represented the country at the summit, told NAN in an interview that political will by the government was necessary to achieve digital integration.
Shittu appealed to all Nigerian state governors and other stakeholders to support the Federal Government in making Nigeria ICT based country.
“Of course we need the patriotic participation of all states because Federal Government cannot do it alone.
“To transform Nigeria through ICT, we need all states to key into the project, they must get it right from the onset that ICT is the way to go,” he said.
Zambian Vice-President Inonge Wina corroborated Kagame’s claims, saying governments and private sector partners should have the will to work together with the greater goal in mind.
Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada also said technology adoption should be with a sense of urgency as Africa was already lagging behind in previous digital revolutions.
On his part, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta warned that failure to foster cooperation among African countries risked missing out on opportunities availed by technology adoption as has happened in the past.
The Transform Africa leaders’ summit was also attended by President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, President Ismail Guelleh of Djibouti.
Others are Gabonese Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet and Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea Vicente Ehate Tomi.