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President William Ruto addresses attendees during the official launch of the Connected Africa Summit 2024 at Uhuru Gardens. (Image source: CIO Africa)

On Monday, the inaugural Connected Africa Summit 2024 was officially opened by president William Ruto at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi 

Speaking during the official opening ceremony, president Ruto placed the African youth at the centre of the digital transformation agenda in the continent, noting that they are a fundamental constituency as builders and beneficiaries of a digitally-enabled society which will propel the success of everyone in the continent.

It was noted by him that the young African talents, propelled by their bold creativity and unwavering entrepreneurial drive, are leading the charge in advancements across various sectors including Fintech, agri-tech, renewable energy, and digital services.

"Their exceptional intellect is actively fueling the growth of the global technology sector, establishing Africa as an essential centre of technological innovation," he remarked. "This generation has embraced technology as an integral aspect of life, essential not only for economic advancement but also as a critical tool for addressing the most pressing challenges of our era."

Theme: “Shaping the Future of a Connected Africa: Unlocking Growth Beyond Connectivity”

President Ruto further conveyed that through the Summit, the continent aims to establish a sustainable framework of connectivity, empowering its populace to fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the AU's Agenda 2063.

However, it was acknowledged that the continent still has a considerable distance to traverse in preparing for the digital economy and the future of work. President Ruto highlighted that the continent's internet penetration rate stands at 36%, equivalent to 473 million users, in a continent with a population of 1.4 billion. At the current pace of development, he indicated that these figures are likely to surge by 300 million by 2030.

“We must therefore be concerned by the fact that our rate of connectivity is poorer than the existing potential: Despite these connections, fixed broadband penetration in Africa is only about 5%, which leaves us far behind other regions of the globe,” he said, adding that this reality carries dire implications to the continent’s ambition for connectivity and economic transformation through the digital economy.

Under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the president said that the Africa aims to harness Pan-African integration in order to expand the collective GDP from US$1.7 trillion to US$2.5 trillion by 2030.

“This ambition must be complemented by a strong commitment to bridge the huge digital divide which undermines our continent’s growth prospects. Globally, Africa’s digital infrastructure coverage, access, and quality lags behind other regions. Yet it does not have to be this way, because the most transformative interventions are a decision away,” he said highlighting the variances in connectivity amongst people in the region.

“Closing the digital divide is a priority in terms of enhancing connectivity, expanding the contribution of the ICT sector to Africa’s GDP and driving overall GDP growth which will be attained through determined interventions to significantly increase access to broadband services, and to enhance both service quality and affordability which will intensify job creations and poverty reduction,” he added.

The Connected Africa Summit 2024, held under the theme, “Shaping the Future of a Connected Africa: Unlocking Growth Beyond Connectivity”, is a high-level international forum for key African Policy and decision-makers aimed at shaping the future of Africa’s Digital Economic Landscape. The week-long Summit will build on the achievements of the Connected Summit which has for the last 14 years convened top global ICT thought leaders and policymakers to champion innovative ideas and partnerships that leverage technology.

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