President Paul Kagame says there is a need to accelerate technological efforts to ensure many Africans get online, as there is no longer any doubt about the impact of digital connectivity on socioeconomic development.
The Head of State made the rallying call on Tuesday at the opening of the GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC 2023) which officially kicked off in Kigali today, running from October 17 to 19.
He pointed out that for Africa to fully leverage the trickle down effect of technology and maximize the demographic dividend of its young population, more Africans need to get connected and the cost of connectivity lowered, adding that recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need to speed up these efforts and eliminate the gaps.
“The pandemic has added to accelerating the transition to a new era of technology-led development. Our young and talented entrepreneurs are driving this change, and we continue to support them. That means we have to address the gaps in access and connectivity, with a sense of urgency,”
“Too many Africans remain offline. Today, Africa has the fastest-growing mobile penetration rate globally. But we still have a long way to go. Yet, we already have the means to address the problems we are dealing with today,” President Kagame told the over 2,500 delegates.
He called for the need for African countries to work together if they are to achieve more results and faster, observing that efforts of young African innovators are already making a difference in the lives of citizens, citing financial
technology, which is starting to make a big difference in everyday lives of the people.
Among other examples, he cited the potential of digital Health technology to transform the health systems as well as the power of regional and continental integration to drive this change.
Regional integration, powered by faster and more reliable broadband, is a big part of it. The African Union and Smart Africa
are our key institutions leading this and Africa enjoys strong support from many partners. We can get more results faster by working together,” he said.
The Head of State commended Airtel Rwanda for bringing the cost of 4G data within reach of nearly every Rwanda with the new initiative announced on Monday, in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, through the “Connect Rwanda” initiative.
He also commended the philanthropic support from Reed Hastings, the co-founder and executive chairman of
Netflix, which will allow many Rwandans to acquire a new smartphone for under $20. The same light he thanked MTN
Rwanda for offering new competitive pricing to its customers.
He promised the government’s role which is to maintain an enabling environment and a level playing field, something he said shows the power of collaboration among the private sector, government and strategic philanthropy. President Kagame called.
“We must continue to prioritize digital skills and literacy. Globally, we are also seeing strong momentum to support Africa’s digital transformation,” President Kagame said, citing the ITU’s Partner to Connect digital coalition launched last year as a very good example.
“So far, over $32 billion in pledges have been mobilized and hard to reach communities will benefit the most,” he said, commending the ITU Secretary General, Doreen Bogdan-Martin for spearheading the alliance.
“If there is one lesson from the pandemic it is that in times of crisis we have to look for the common denominator. Only then can we see the light at the end of the tunnel and build the future we all deserve,” President Kagame said.
The event, the second consecutive one hosted in Kigali, after last years, brought together policymakers and global business leaders to discuss key innovations in mobile technology and chart the path for Africa’s rapidly evolving connectivity ecosystem.
The speakers include leading names in government, global business, emerging technologies and more, among them representatives of big telecommunication organizations such as ATU, Ethiopia Telecom, Huawei, MTN Group, the ITU, Orange Middle East and Africa, the Rwandan Ministry of ICT and Innovation, the SAMENA Telecommunications Council, Smart Africa, Take Back the Mic and ZTE Corporation.
Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA said that the past decade or so, saw African register tremendous growth in mobile penetration, with countries like Rwanda leading from the front.
“The mobile industry has seen remarkable growth across Sub-Saharan Africa and now reaches almost 490 million unique subscribers – but only one-in-four people in the region subscribe to the mobile internet,”
“MWC Kigali provides a forum for policymakers and leaders in connectivity to come together and discuss ways of accelerating the digital transformation of Africa, closing the usage gap and, ultimately, ensuring everybody in the region benefits,” Granryd said.
Mobile Economy Report Sub-Saharan Africa
The GSMA marked the opening of MWC Kigali 2023 with the publication of its annual Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa Report, which revealed a considerable mobile internet usage gap of 59% in Sub-Saharan Africa. The usage gap refers to individuals who are not using mobile internet despite living in an area covered by mobile broadband networks.
While the report acknowledged over 285 million people in the region – representing 25% of the population – were using mobile internet, the significant usage gap highlights the impact of the barriers to adoption, including the lack of affordability and low levels of digital skills.
Mobile internet penetration levels varied across Sub-Saharan Africa, with Mauritius, South Africa and the Seychelles all reporting adoption rates of over 50%. Meanwhile, Benin, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo represented the countries with the fewest mobile internet users, with penetration levels below 15%.