I expressed excitement and a lot of expectation for what the Africa Tech Summit in Kigali would deliver before the event started last morning. As you know, expectation sets you up for disappointment. Not this time. The summit started off very well.
The discussions were all very relevant not just to the techie/startup type person but to the African continent and context. I am still excited to consume Day 2. I however, have much too much to share on Day 1 experiences. I need to share what startups are building across the continent. The thing I don’t have though is time. Hold me to this, I am gonna write about all this exciting stuff in the coming days. As soon as I can.
So, it’s funny that a tech summit would remind me of Robert Mugabe but it did. The opening remarks to the summit were given by some Rwandan government guy responsible for a unit that’s in charge of ICT innovation or something like that. I usually don’t remember government type people let alone in Rwanda.
What struck me though is how much he articulated the government’s position on ICT. I know Zimbabweans are used to eloquence from bureaucrats and it means nothing but this was different. He shared how his government was in the middle of implementing a 20-year vision for Rwanda.
What is their vision? To become a knowledge-based economy. Yes, simple like that. Beautiful like that. For all his eloquence, tell me a succinct 20, 10, 5 or 1-year vision Mugabe ever put forward… If a national vision needs me to read 230 pages excluding tables, diagrams, and the foreword, then it is useless to anyone including the person who wrote it.
The impressive thing is not that this guy articulated this vision well and broke it down well. It’s his job to do so and of course, he had time to prepare to speak. What really impresses me is the belief that every Rwandan I have met has in where their country is going and their conviction to contribute there. That’s what a simple vision does. You can see it, smell it, touch it. Rwanda people do smell it, see it and they are gonna touch it.
I spoke to a charming young lady, a coder. She was not in when the address by the government suit was delivered but she sounded as if they had shared notes. She was so excited about what she does and the problems she wants to solve. I am always looking for such kinds of people in Zimbabwe and I don’t meet them often. I don’t know if I am such myself even.
Rwanda is still a long while off but you know they are on the right track when a government dude not only knows about IoT, AI and robotics but clearly understands how these are tools that have a specific place within the context of his country and how they are applying these technologies to solve real problems.
Talk of technology in Zimbabwe government circles is always merely at the level of ’empowering the youth’ (what does that even mean?) or more worryingly about how to allocate spectrum and how to get more out of telcos.
Anyway, I still have hope, lots of hope. And I really need to go to the conference now…