Quick wins and wayforward after Connected Africa Summit 2024

The summit featured a high level of international participation, drawing delegates from 49 countries

In Summary
  • Summit brought together key African policy and decision-makers aimed at shaping the future of Africa's digital economic landscape.
  • There were a number of initiatives that were showcased. These included the DigiTruck program that runs a mobile classroom that is used to train youth from remote areas in digital skills.
President William Ruto being taken through an exhibition at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi during the opening of Connected Africa Summit 2024 on April 22, 2024.
President William Ruto being taken through an exhibition at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi during the opening of Connected Africa Summit 2024 on April 22, 2024.
Image: PCS

Billed as a transformative initiative, the Connected Africa Summit 2024 was held at Uhuru gardens between April 21 and 25, 2024, drawing delegates from a cross the globe to explore how to invest in digital infrastructure and create jobs. 

It brought together key African policy and decision-makers aimed at shaping the future of Africa's digital economic landscape.

Countries were urged to up their investment in the ICT infrastructure, with Kenya announcing that some Sh15. 1 billion has been dedicated to the sector in the current financial year.

The Star spoke to the ICT CS Eliud Owalo to explore what precipitated from the summit and the way forward in the ICT sector for the country.

Here is the excerpt.

How involved was the Kenyan government in the summit?

The government played a pivotal role, with involvement at the highest levels, indicating strong governmental support, as President William Ruto opened it, while his deputy Rigathi Gachagua closed it. Various government agencies collaborated in the planning and execution, ensuring alignment with broader national and regional digital transformation goals. Agencies involved included Kenya Airports Authority, Immigration, Tourism, Ministry of Interior and National Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Information Communications and the Digital Economy.

What was the level of participation in the summit?

The summit saw high level participation of international players as it drew delegates from 49 countries. This included government ministers, diplomats like the US.

Ambassador and EU Ambassador, and high-ranking officials such as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Several governments were represented by Cabinet Ministers and their senior officers. In total, 16 cabinet ministers from Africa attended.

The CEO of Smart Africa and other key stakeholders in the digital and technological sectors also participated, making it a richly diverse and influential gathering.

Who were the sponsors of the summit?

The summit was predominantly sponsored by the private sector, showcasing the strong collaboration between the government and businesses in technology. Major tech companies and several local enterprises contributed, highlighting their commitment to fostering a technologically advanced African continent.

Which are the main organisations that participated by way of exhibition? And what technological innovations were exhibited?

Key exhibitors included global tech giants and innovative start-ups, which presented technologies such as advanced broadband solutions, artificial intelligence applications, mobile financial platforms, and renewable energy technologies. These exhibits demonstrated practical applications of advanced technologies in addressing everyday challenges in African contexts. Some of the Global organisations that participated included Safaricom, Oracle, Dell, VISA, Hewlett Packard, and Liquid. Local companies such as Moringa, Tespok, and Telkom also contributed.

What benefits did Kenya as a country get from the summit?

Kenya gained significantly from hosting the summit, including enhancing its reputation as a technology leader in Africa, attracting direct foreign investments, and fostering partnerships. The summit also spurred significant local economic activity and offered Kenyan businesses and start-ups invaluable exposure to international markets and networks.

What were some of the resolutions of the summit?

The resolutions from the summit focused on several strategic areas. There was agreement for countries to invest in digital infrastructure development, with commitments to expand it to underserved areas.

On education and skills development, it was resolved to expand initiatives to enhance digital literacy across all age groups. On policy and regulation, the summit resolved to push for development of harmonised policies to support digital innovation and protect user data.

On economic inclusion, it was resolved that strategies be implemented to use digital tools for financial inclusion and to boost local enterprises.

Also, on environmental sustainability, there was emphasis on integrating green technologies in future digital expansions, and finally, on digital jobs for our young people, African delegates emphasised the need to grow the digital jobs ecosystem to ensure the growing number of educated and unemployed youth could benefit from gainful income.

What were the key themes and focus areas highlighted during the Connected Africa Summit 2024?

The summit highlighted themes like digital transformation as a tool for economic growth, the role of technology in governance and public service delivery, and the importance of creating a supportive ecosystem for start-ups. Focus was also placed on leveraging digital technologies to improve healthcare, education, and agricultural sectors. Sharing of best practices and use of case studies was highlighted, especially in AI. The delegates and particularly government representatives expressed hope that information sharing through country benchmarking will foster diligent use of resources by adopting use cases from neighbours that have been tested and adopted.

What major partnerships and sponsorships were highlighted at the summit?

The Nairobi Declaration by African ICT Cabinet Ministers underscored the importance of working together to deliver on internet connectivity, data sharing, data investments, and skilling of the youth for digital jobs. This is indeed timely since governments will open dialogue resulting in close collaboration, particularly pooling resources for huge investments, for example, Data Cloud Centers. Major partnerships with global tech firms were announced, aiming to bring cutting-edge technologies and investments to Africa. Sponsorships from key players in the tech industry underscored a strong commitment to developing the continent's digital landscape, with initiatives aimed at both infrastructural and human capital development.

How did the summit address Africa's connectivity challenges?

The theme of the summit was Shaping the Future of a Connected Africa: Unlocking Growth Beyond Connectivity. The summit tackled connectivity challenges by advocating for increased investment in telecommunications infrastructure, promoting regulatory reforms to facilitate greater market entry and competition, and highlighting innovative connectivity solutions tailored to rural and remote areas. For instance, the delegates addressed the need for increased investments in inter-countries fiber cables. This would largely provide stable and available internet connectivity for many countries at a lower cost. The delegates shared results from their countries, in particular, emphasising how the reduction of taxes on ICT investments broadens coverage and also provides governments with a wider revenue base as more citizens introduce new investments riding on available internet connections.

What were the outcomes of the preparations made to ensure the summit's success?

The preparations, which included comprehensive stakeholder engagements, logistical planning, and security arrangements, ensured that the summit ran smoothly. These efforts facilitated effective networking, knowledge sharing, and collaboration among participants, leading to a successful summit with tangible outcomes.

What innovative platforms and initiatives were introduced at the summit?

There were a number of initiatives that were showcased. These included the DigiTruck programme that runs a mobile classroom that is used to train youth from remote areas in digital skills.

DigiTruck uses solar power, laptops, smartphones, internet connectivity, and a smart screen for digital training. Other innovations included a series of initiatives supporting tech start-ups in securing funding and market access, and partnerships focused on developing smart city solutions that can be adapted across various African cities.

What is the future of the Connected Africa Summit?

The 2024 event was the first continental one since its inception in 2009. The future is bright. We expect to see the summit grow to attract the participation of more tech companies, innovators, industry leaders, and a vast array of delegates from across Africa and beyond. We are committed to ensuring it becomes one of the most influential tech gatherings on the continent.

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