Connectivity Is the Technology We Need to Transform Africa

To quote Greg Wyler, an American tech entrepreneur, Transform Africa Summit (TAS) is “the most important conference of the continent.” Although it has not always been annual, Rwanda has now committed to keeping it an annual gathering of policy makers, private sector, and tech enthusiasts — all speaking the same language of ICT.

When I attended the first conference, last year, I was not convinced — as a student of computer engineering — because I had the misconception that Transform Africa was a technology conference (with gadgets and all sorts of new technologies). But no, it is not. This is a conference that brings various stakeholders together to discuss the evolution of the continent in many aspects; IT being one of them but not the only one.

That is why, at the event, you see a stand of Carnegie Mellon University without a tech product to showcase. They are not represented as a group that worked on a project but rather as an institution that teaches a wide range of topics that are relevant to technology and development.

The theme this year was, “Accelerating Africa’s single digital market.” This is not an undergraduate level kind of topic, rather a continental concern where Heads of State and bigger investors talk long-term projections and wide-scale implementation; with part of the conference being to support and acknowledge a few young emerging innovators.

Greg Wyler, a prominent investor and engineer, mentioned the need to focus on rural area connectivity, and I couldn’t agree more. The fact is, the sooner our rural areas get connected, the sooner we will see radical change and significant innovation take shape. Otherwise, Greg continued, we will continue to see a massive migration from rural areas to the cities.

Connectivity is the technology we need to transform Africa. The need for connectivity and digital literacy is as important as any other basic need now. It shouldn’t be a luxury that only a few of us can afford.

Nevertheless, we are yet to see an event that is similar to CES (consumer electronics), where we would see real work made by African. The day we do, we’ll be stepping into the market as potential service and technology suppliers, contrary to where we stand now (barely consumers).

To achieve this, the continent needs outstanding entrepreneurs, to bring ideas that relate to people’s needs, and serious investors who understand and support their visions. Africa needs more companies M-Pesa that bring ideas that emerge as long-term solutions to our everyday struggles; ideas and solutions that also put into consideration our financial capabilities.

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