Emma Okonji

African governments have been called upon to invest heavily in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in order to promote digital transformation across the African continent.

Policy makers from various African countries and beyond, who gathered at the ongoing Innovation Africa Digital Summit (IAD) in Abuja, who made the call, said the time has come for African governments to collectively address their challenges through the use of ICT, which they described as catalyst for economic development of any nation.

The participants numbering over 450, who are ICT Ministers and policy makers from Angola, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, United States, Ethiopia, among others, who spoke in one voice, as members of the IAD Summit, said there was need for African governments to collaborate and address challenges peculiar to Africans, using ICT tools.

The summit, which is the 14th edition of IAD Summit, is being hosted in Nigeria for the first time, and sponsored by the Ministry of Communications and Galaxy Backbone, in collaboration with eXtensia of UK, with support from MTN Nigeria.

Speaking on the hosting opportunities for Nigeria, the Managing Director and CEO, Galaxy Backbone, Yusuf Kazaure, said Africa has peculiar challenges that could collectively be addressed through ICT.

He listed weak institutions and bloated population among youths, adding that with investment and deployment of ICT in key sectors of the economy, Africans can collectively address their common challenges.

“African countries have peculiar challenges, which are weak institutions and large population. In Africa what we see, are individuals that are more powerful and more influential than the institutions and this has to change, through the use of ICT,” Kazaure said.

ICT is the only thing that can create rapid jobs for the growing population of youths. Today’s revolution is about big data and Internet of Things (IoTs) and when government begin to see ICT as the right platform to invest in, it will strengthen institutions and develop economies fast in a most transparent way, Kazaure added.

Welcoming participants to Nigeria, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu said: “ICT has come a long way and is currently contributing about 10 per cent to GDP as Oil and Gas. It is arguably one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy and is the second largest ICT market in Africa. ICT, which already employs more Nigerians than the oil and gas sector, is poised to drive growth. Industry analysts suggest that the ICT tools and devices, software solution, IT outsourcing and the e-Commerce sector alone could employ over 40 million Nigerians and contribute billions of dollars to our economy when appropriately channelled and nurtured.”

He said the federal government is partnering the South Korea on e-Government initiative, and that the collaboration is expected to enhance Nigeria’s capability for efficiency, transparency and accountability in governance, with its attendant benefits trickling down to the citizens.
MTN Executive, Amina Oyagbola said: “The ICT sector’s success story is well known and the summit is more about prescriptions for future growth and success and that is why I believe that the theme, “Harnessing Africa’s Digital Growth” is apt and timely. It presupposes rightly that Africa is at a critical stage of its digital growth and increased efforts should be made to further develop the ICT sector and improve its contribution to the GDPs of African countries.”