Carrying on from the theme discussed at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, leveraging digital transformation takes centre stage as the WEF on Africa holds its 26th forum in Rwanda.
“This year’s theme at the meeting in Davos was about “mastering the 4th industrial revolution” and what that really means is trying to make sense of the implication of the digital transformation the world is going through right now, and making sure we can collectively ensure that it serves humanity and doesn’t threaten it,” Vanessa Moungar, community lead, regional strategies Africa for WEF, tells BusinessDay, in her first interview with a Nigerian newspaper.
“We believe this is an urgent conversation we need to be having in the African context, and so that is what we would be doing in Kigali, Rwanda,” Moungar said.
Moungar revealed that an initiative on digital transformation will be launched this year in Kigali, which is the “internet for all initiative”, with the aim of connecting the 4 billion people that are not currently online.
“For this, we will be looking at innovative public and private partnerships that can enable us to accelerate on that. We will be launching the first country programmes in Kigali, on the corridor of East Africa,” Moungar said.
Moungar also anticipates good representation from the public and private sectors in Nigeria, as she revealed two Nigerians who are on the list of co-chairs at the event.
“They are, Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, as well as the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu,” she says.
This is the first time a WEF summit is being held in Rwanda, and work is on at a feverish pace to deliver a world-class event, to be attended by some of Africa’s richest men and women.
Speaking to BusinessDay, Moungar revealed that Rwanda’s growth rate of 7.6 percent, which was one of the fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa, was vital in selecting the country as the venue of this year’s forum.
“They are also one of the most competitive economies in the African region. They have been leading in the digital revolution, hosting the smaller African secretariats.
For all these reasons, we will be going to Rwanda this year. However, we are definitely looking forward to exploring more countries to see how we can bring our platform to more places across the continent in the coming years,” she reveals.
She further says, occasioned by the dip in commodity price, Africa’s political leaders were receptive to this year’s forum, as they see the need for an interface between the public and private sector to address economic challenges.
“Africa’s political leaders are looking for innovative ways to diversify their economy away from commodities and this will happen through conversations with the various private sectors because one thing that is sure is that the challenges cannot be solved by one party.
“They both need to work together, with each party doing its part. Government provides the enabling environment and the much needed reforms to engender economic growth, while the private sector develops and provides the jobs necessary for inclusive economic growth often talked about,” Moungar says.
In addendum, she says the telecommunications sector in Nigeria is a sector to be eyed with dart-like precision if the nation is to enjoy sustainable economic growth and be less dependent on one sector
“Nigeria is a great example of how the digital revolution is changing the landscape. You know that the telecommunications sector has now become the largest contributor to GDP with about 7 percent.
It is also a sector that is creating sustainable jobs and providing a very high return on investment for the private sector,” she added.
Speaking on what delegates from the various African countries can expect, Francis Gatare, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, says a smooth immigration process like never before, which erases the need for a visa for African travellers is in place to facilitate entry into Rwanda.
“There are many travellers who go through the unnecessary process of looking for an embassy and applying for visas, and they don’t have to do it. Even those who require visas – some of the international travellers with non-African passports – can do it online, and immigration guarantees you a response in 24 hours,” Gatare said.
The forum which is scheduled to hold from May 11th to 13th, this year (2016), will convene leaders across the public and private sectors under the theme “Connecting Africa’s resources through digital transformation.”