What is SMART Africa?
SMART Africa is both a solution and a commitment from African Heads of State and Government to grow the continent’s socio-economic developments and create affordable access to broadband. The overall goal is to increase Africa’s lagging economy through systems such as information and communications technologies (ICT).
Within SMART Africa is the Alliance, a group of 24 countries representing over 600 million people, that works to implement and maintain the pillars of the SMART Africa Manifesto and make sure its vision moves into action. These pillars include Policy, Access, e-Government, Private Sector/Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development. These pillars further break down into four enablers that ensure the effective establishment of economic growth and job creation.
More than 1,200 delegates attended the first summit in 2013, including top executives from groups such as Facebook and Google. The 2013 summit resulted in the creation of the SMART Africa Manifesto, which was the first time Africa planned to put the private sector first and create a more open economy through ICT and advanced telecommunication. The 2018 summit hosted in May showcased the continent’s first Transform Africa Economic Forum which proposed ways to boost Africa’s economy by connecting cabinet secretaries with business leaders for collaboration.
The 2019 summit focused on the theme of “Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy.” This summit culminated in efforts to engage business leaders and high net worth investors in areas where collaboration and investment opportunities were possible, mainly in public-private partnerships. The newest summit is scheduled for April 2020 in Conakry, Republic of Guinea and projections determine that it should host over 4,000 participants from around the world.
One of the unique features of the Transform Africa Summit is the member state’s drive to put the private sector first, which could further increase investments and productivity. Prior to the summit, Africa previously underdeveloped this notion. Through digitalization and creating a “One Africa Network,” leaders of the summit hope to rid Africa of the vast fragmentation that exists between countries.
Also central to the summit’s mission is to bring Africa from merely being a consumer of ICTs to its own producer. By operating on the premise of shared prosperity, creating supportive policies and doing away with monopolies, Africa can take great strides toward developing a successful knowledge-based economy.
All four summits have been incredibly successful in ushering in connectivity in African cities and villages. All 53 governments of the African Union have accepted the SMART Africa Manifesto. This is a huge leap from the seven original members. Also successful was the push for the “One Africa Network” which paved the way for the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and proposed the establishment of a single market for all goods and services in 54 countries, a feat that would not have happened without SMART Africa’s digital push.
The 2018 summit noted that Africa’s mobile usage had increased to 80.8 percent, falling just behind 99.7 percent usage at the world level. Summit leaders also noted how new technology prices were able to go down due to the rise of technology that was popping up.
Overall, the Transform Africa Summit has created a more connected, open and successful economy for Africa. Africa has experienced job increases, industry expansion and economic growth since the original creation of the SMART Africa Manifesto in 2013 and its implementation by members of the African Alliance. The World Economic Forum speakers projected that numbers for 2020 will show that Africa’s consumer spending will be over $1.4 trillion.
– Laurel Sonneby