Connected Africa Summit addressing continent’s challenges, opportunities and bridging digital divides

Nairobi, Kenya — Government representatives from Africa, along with ICT (information and communication technology) officials, and international organizations have gathered in Nairobi for a Connected Africa Summit. They are discussing the future of technology, unlocking the continent’s growth beyond connectivity, and addressing the challenges and opportunities in the continent’s information and technology sector.

Speaking at the Connected Africa Summit opening in Nairobi Monday, Kenyan President William Ruto said bridging the technology gap is important for Africa’s economic growth and innovation.  

“Closing the digital divide is a priority in terms of enhancing connectivity, expanding the contribution of the ICT sector to Africa’s GDP and driving overall GDP growth across all sectors. Africa’s digital economy has immense potential…,” Ruto said. “Our youth population, the youngest globally, is motivated and prepared to drive the digital economy, foster innovation and entrench new technologies.”    

Experts say digital transformation in Africa can improve its industrialization, reduce poverty, create jobs, and improve its citizens’ lives.

According to the World Bank, 36 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion population have access to the internet, and in some of the areas that have connections, the quality of the service is poor compared to other regions.

The international financial institution figures show that Africa saw a 115 percent increase in internet users between 2016 and 2021 and that 160 million gained broadband internet access between 2019 and 2022.  

Africa’s digital growth has been hampered by the lack of an accessible, secure, and reliable internet, which is critical in closing the digital gap and reducing inequalities.  

Lacina Kone is the head of Smart Africa, an organization that coordinates ICT activities within the continent. He says integrating technology into African societies’ daily activities is necessary and cannot be ignored.  

“Digital transformation is no longer a choice but a necessity, just like water utility, just like any other utility we use at home,” Kone said. “So, this connected Africa is an opportunity for all of us. I see a lot of country members, and ICT ministers are here to align our visions together.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the consumption of technology in different sectors of the African economy, and experts say opportunities now exist in mobile services, the development of broadband infrastructure, and data storage.  

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, called on the summit attendees to develop technologies that can solve people’s problems.  

“I encourage all of you to consider this approach for your economies. Look at what strengths already exist in your countries and ask how technology can solve challenges in those sectors to make you a leader through innovation,” Whitman said. “Sometimes innovation looks like Artificial Intelligence, satellites and e-money. Sometimes though it looks much different than we expect. However, innovation always includes three elements: solution focused, it’s specific and it’s sustainable. Bringing solution-focused, being solution-focused is the foundation of shaping the future of a connected Africa.”

The summit ends on Friday, but before that, those attending aim to explore ways to improve Africa’s technology usage, enhance continental connectivity, boost competitiveness, and ensure the continent keeps up with the ever-evolving tech sector.

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