This summit focuses on Smart Cities. For good reason, Africa currently has the world’s fastest growing cities. But even so, Africa remains the least urbanized continent. Taking together these facts, tell us two things. First, Africa is not as prosperous as it should be, because our cities are too small and disconnected. Second, this situation is changing rapidly, and Africa looks to emerge as one of the planet’s great centers of both innovation and opportunity in the generations ahead. However, we cannot take this trend for granted. With both the urgency and relevance of the Smart Africa agenda, into its proper context. The word smart is really about leveraging digital technologies, to narrow the gap between the high quality services we need and those we can afford. And to do so quickly, we can work together to put technology in the hands of the citizens of our continent in order to build inclusive and sustainable places to live. Our future wellbeing depends on how well we respond to these challenges right now. Let me remind all of us about a few key priorities. First, Africa has to be connected, and why not at the highest possible speed. At first glance, the figures appear wrong. Only 20% of Africans have Internet access. And there are only three years left to meet the broadband conditions target of 50%. However, this must be regarded as an opportunity for stronger public-private collaboration. In Rwanda for example, our partnership with Korea telecom has already served to speed up our progress towards the broadband target. Second, we must deliver on technologies promise to bridge divides rather than deepening. That begins with digital- gender divide. As long as women and girls are lagging behind, then we are not on the right track. Access to technology and information must also not distinguish between rich and poor. Or between urban and rural areas. If technology is entrenching divides rather than equalizing opportunities, then we are not harnessing it well. And there will be surely negative consequences to follow from that. We have to make sure and make use of the combined talents, know-how, resources and the decision making power gathered here to open up new pathways of from activity and inclusive growth to our continent’s rapidly expanding cities. Technologies are a powerful framework for bringing diverse stakeholders together to define challenges and find solutions as you may see in this room. Transforming Africa, after all means transforming Africans by enabling the practical mindset of problem solving and discovery. A focus on people is a starting point, around which we can build everything else including the infrastructure and systems required. This goal can only be achieved by all actors working together, with the private sector taking the lead and governments fostering the conducive environment for innovation and investment. The Smart Cities framework launched today, should serve as a catalyst to fast forward our plans. Our role is to continue to push for speedy implementation. Africans have the willingness to work and a talent to succeed. They wait to make sure they acquire the knowledge and attitudes to be competitive. I look forward for a rich exchange of ideas over the next few days. We want to work with you all to transform African cities into dynamic and prosperous places for our people.
I wish to end by thanking you for your kind attention and good collaboration.
Speech transcribed by Elie Imanishimwe