Kagame: “We should Move Quickly to Embrace Digitalization/Artificial intelligence, and Make it Work for Us”

The Chairman of Transform Africa/Smart Africa, General Paul Kagame, says that it is time to embrace artificial intelligence to quicken the pace of digitalizing African economies. But what the Chairman is preaching is already underway with projections that Africa e-Conomy will grow to US$180 billion by 2025. Crucially, Google is launching a US$1 billion investment that includes the launch of the first African Google Cloud. This will avail the platform to enable African developer professionals to move into the real world of digitization, not least for artificial intelligence. Sadly, the Google and World Bank assessment of the current state of African e-Conomy placed Rwanda at the bottom of the heap not only in its own region of East Africa but also across Africa. Kagame needs to practice what he preaches in Rwanda before lecturing to Africa.

In his capacity as the Chairman of Smart Africa, General Paul Kagame has called for immediate adoption of artificial intelligence to quicken the pace of digitizing African economies. As he put it, “Transforming Africa means digitizing our economies,” adding that “We should therefore move quickly to embrace artificial intelligence, and make it work for us.” This speech raises four questions:

  1. How is Kagame positioning Rwanda to participate meaningfully in the emerging Africa’s e-Conomy projected to reach the US$180 billion mark by 2025?
  2. Is he aware of the ongoing infrastructure development to power Africa’s e-Conomy?
  3. Is he aware of the 2020 assessment by Google and the IFC that determined the current state of the e-Conomy in each African country?
  4. Is he aware that Rwanda was found to be at the bottom of the heap not only in its own region of East Africa but also across Africa?

Let us look at these four vital questions

On how Kagame and his ministers are positioning Rwanda to benefit from Africa’s US$180 billion e-Conomy, I am not aware of any actions in this regard. Perhaps, the government is busy devising strategies for enabling Rwanda to become an active participant as opposed to being a bystander.

On the infrastructure development for powering Africa’s e-Conomy, this is an exciting time. The infrastructure includes Google’s US$1 billion investment that includes the establishment of the first African Google Cloud region. Based in South Africa, the Africa region will be joining Google Cloud’s global network of 35 cloud regions.

Why is this important for Africa’s e-Conomy? Google Cloud is a suite of cloud computing services for the delivery of applications and data. Crucially, this includes the Google Cloud Platform for developing, deploying, and managing applications on the cloud. Further, the Platform includes tools for data management, application development, deployment, and monitoring.

Regarding the 2020 assessment of the current e-Conomy Africa, Google and IFC established that there are nearly 700,000 professional developers across Africa.

However, most of the Africa developer population is concentrated in 5 key African markets:

  1. South Africa: 118,541
  2. Egypt: 86,599
  3. Nigeria: 83,609
  4. Kenya: 58,175
  5. Morocco: 46,483.

In the East Africa region, Kenya is on top with a developer population of 58,175, followed by Tanzania at 15,008 against Uganda with 11,003 developers. Rwanda is at the bottom with a pathetic developer population of 3,983.

As for the digital skills across Africa, Rwanda also ranks at the bottom together with Benin, Madagascar, Gabon, DRC, Gabon and Togo.

As shown in the diagram on digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda’s skills are still limited to social media, computer networking, graphic design and web development. Software development life cycle, cybersecurity, mobile application development, scientific computing, animation, artificial intelligence, software testing, and cloud computing are unheard of in Rwanda.

So now, what?

So where does this miserable outlook leave Kagame’s agenda for transforming Rwanda into e-Conomy? I am reminded of the great Barry White’s famous song “Practice What You Preach.” Barry White talks about how easy it is to give advice to others but fail miserably to follow it yourself. Likewise, while Kagame is preaching e-Conomy to others, he fails to build it Rwanda. There is no magical tool to instantly transform Rwanda into e-Conomy – over to you Chairman, General Paul Kagame. Stay tuned.