Kenya sets pace with launch of blueprint for digital economy

Saturday May 18 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta, with Presidents Paul

President Uhuru Kenyatta, with Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, tours an exhibition stand at the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, on May 15, 2019. PHOTO | PPU 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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President Uhuru Kenyatta launched Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint on Tuesday as the second Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda, picked up.

According to President Kenyatta, this would serve as an important guide for powering Kenya’s economic transformation by technology.

“It is intended as a framework to guide us as we accelerate the adoption of digital technologies. I hope all countries will find value in contextualising this framework to their specific ecosystems so as to realise the full potential of our digital transformation,” President Kenyatta said.

“In Kenya, the number of active Internet and data subscriptions stood at 42.2 million in 2018, broadband covers more than 45 per cent of the total population and virtually the entire country is linked to the national optic fibre,” he added.

This move is significant for Africa, considering that Kenya was last month appointed to develop a blueprint for a digital economy on the continent by the Smart Africa Initiative, a continental body in charge of advancing a single digital market in Africa.

By launching its own blueprint, the first on the continent, Kenya indicated its potential to meet the objective of being a pacesetter for African countries that are embarking on this digital transformation journey.

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The five key pillars of this digital blueprint focus on are: Transforming government service delivery through digitisation, as well as empowering businesses, entrepreneurship, innovation and skills through technology.

Infrastructure for technology

President Paul Kagame also stressed that the continent needs to invest more in infrastructure for technology as well as enhance co-operation among African countries to navigate the complex global dynamics that have affected the continent.

“We are in the era of the digital economy. Remaining behind is not an option anymore for Africa. It never was, but we thought or acted like it was. Africa can only protect our peoples’ interests and increase the size of our market through integration and co-operation,” he said.

He added that technology should be used to help African economies to leapfrog financial development and quality of services across all sectors of the economy.

The winners of Ms Geek Africa — which encourages African girls to pursue science education and professions — were also announced at the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali.

Achievers

The competition was won by Josephine Uwase Ndeze, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, out of eight finalists who were considered from over 250 applications representing 15 countries.

She was awarded $3,300 and a technical membership with the New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The summit was also attended by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali.

It attracted over 4,000 participants, including government officials across Africa, innovators and entrepreneurs, under the theme “Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy.”

Overall South Africa ranks first, followed by Kenya, Nigeria and then Ethiopia in digitisation, according to the 2017 Maturity Report by Siemens.

Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda as well as Mozambique, Malawi and Senegal have been classified as the strongest innovation achievers in Africa at least five times in the last six years, according to American think-tank Brookings Institution.

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