Idea to harmonise digital policies in Africa mooted
9 August 2019
African leaders in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector have proposed an idea to harmonise digital policies to accelerate the continent’s digital transformation.
The leaders are meeting in Kigali for the India-Africa ICT Summit and Expo.
Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of ICT & Innovation, told participants that there was a need to have inclusive policies.
“We need to think about inclusive policies because the levels of development, levels of resources, as well as skills are not similar on the continent,” she said.
This, she argued, will facilitate the delivery of equitable opportunities for the entire African population.
Ingabire suggested that policymakers ought to leverage on the content’s youthful population, which is agile and adaptable to drive digital transformation.
More than ever, countries across the continent are talking about digital transformation and investing in technologies. There is a flourishing section of firms providing services to the population.
Leaders say the policy making institutions should be proactive to properly harness digital technologies and leverage these unprecedented benefits.
However, Mark Botomani, Malawi’s Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, argued that without political leadership commitment, Africa will never be able to achieve its policy targets.
“We can have infrastructure and partners to support us, but if we do not have strong leadership that will drive these things, we will not be successful,” he said.
In Malawi, he added, the Government has committed to drive ICT growth through investing in infrastructure and establishing legislations like the 2016 Financial Crimes and Cyber-security Act.
“As of now, in terms of infrastructure, we have already laid 11,000 kilometres fibre backbone across the country, which means that even the people in remote areas are able to access network,” he noted.
The country has also recently commissioned a project to set up towers to enable citizens to have full-time signal, and Botomani believes it is such kind of commitments that Africa leaders should undertake.
But Kazembe Kazembe, the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services in Zimbabwe said there was a need to harmonise policies and regulations in Africa to remove border barriers.
“We have to remove the borders; we have to work as one African family. If we are to have our own Alibaba, we have to look at Africa as one global village when it comes to technology,” he stated.
With broadband internet expected to have an immense impact to Africa’s gross domestic product, Kazembe indicated that policies being put in place should be aligned to the address existing gaps.
The World Bank predicts that by 2032, the impact of 5G alone in Sub-Saharan Africa will be $30 billion.
Kazembe said his country has understood the need to invest in broadband infrastructure, highlighting that more than 20,000 km of optic fibre has been deployed so far.
“We have also ensuring that each and every village in Zimbabwe has access to internet by deploying what we call community information centres and today, we have installed about 146 centres through our regulator,” he noted.
Zimbabwe became the latest member of the Smart Africa Alliance last week, attesting to the belief the country has toward the unified ICT agenda the organisation is trying to promote.
“I believe the Smart Africa Alliance is bringing us together as a continent and it will facilitate to remove borders,” he said.