Panelists and participants at the ongoing Transform Africa summit are calling a spade a spade.
Professor Romain Murenzi, the Director General of World Academy of Sciences, dropped an icebreaker in the room, saying that some of Africa’s obstacles to catching up with rest of the world, is because, “we don’t have the right training and the right teachers in higher institutions.”
Murenzi said, “you find that the person teaching ICT at university holds a bachelor degree because universities have quite a shortage of PhD degree holders, with just 10 to 20% lecturers who hold a PhD degree.”
This, he explained, is not an ideal situation especially when the continent needs to train highly skilled people such as programmers, yet the qualification of ICT lecturers goes decreasing from university to primary schools.
Murenzi said the availability of technologies should be a solution.
He said training a PHD student might take up to $200,000, but with the advent of online courses, the cost can be much lower and much faster.
Prof Murenzi spoke alongside Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Ericson’s CEO for sub-Saharan Africa, Fredrik Jejdling; and Cynthia Gordon, Executive Vice President and CEO of Millicom Africa Division, among others.
Discussants said, while the situation is wanting, some governments are taking some steps to address the matter.
Rwanda is already at the crossroads in investing in ICT in education. Currently, 244,793 laptops have been distributed in 722 schools nationwide with three million set to benefit from the ‘One laptop per child’ programme.
Roughly $130 million has been invested in a fibre optic cable rolled out on 3000km across the country to ensure rural schools get access to broadband connectivity.
In the past few years, ICT has been the driving engine for transformation of the education sector, and allocated with 20% of the national budget, approximately $494 million of $2.47 billion.
With these achievements, Minister Nsengimana told the Summit that “We are leveraging ICT to raise citizenship engagements.”
On Smart Africa, Nsengimana said that “Being smart means being connected…this is why Africa has decided to make broad band connectivity a priority. Being smart means sharing.”
Nsengimana added that in Rwanda, “The change of paradigm is making young entrepreneurs to start businesses and in just a year hit a billion mark.”
While Africa is believed to be moving at a slow pace in achieving digital migration, Fredrik Jejdling, head of Ericsson’s sub-Saharan Africa region said “Africa is a promising continent for it has the biggest digital growth rate.”
However, Cynthia Gordon, Executive Vice President and CEO of Millicom Africa Division, said that an urgent deployment of resources are needed to facilitate the youths on the continent.
“Young Africans’ deserve the opportunity to fulfill their full potentials,” she said.
In the consequence, capacity of Africa to publish is wanting, with only 2% of global publication-including digital publication.
Panelists agree there is need to increase investment in ICT.
Telecommunication companies for example would need to invest in programming; meeting universities with ICT programs so they can support education in the matter.
Rwandan effort was commended in trying programming; the One Laptop Per Child where over 300,000 children from Primary schools are given gadgets and are now being initiated to programming.
The Minister of Education, Papias Musafiri said, the country is now working hard to take the programming to the next level.
Simultaneously, his ministry is working on a project that intends to digitize teaching materials.
Murenzi said, countries like Rwanda do not have any more excuse to fall short of ICT opportunities given an internet penetration which is ahead compared to other countries.
“There is no reason every school in Rwanda should not be connected,” he said. “Cost of devices is decreasing and this is another advantages,” he said adding that wherever needed, countries should subsidize cost of gadgets.