African countries need to reposition technology as a driver of economic growth, Deputy President William Ruto has said.
He said technology is a prime enabler of sustainable competitiveness, with the power to elevate African countries to middle-income level.
Dr Ruto noted that countries can embrace modern technology by investing in education and training, beginning by aligning the needs of the private sector “vis-a-vis what our youth are taught”.
“A suitably reoriented technology should impart leadership, digital and soft skills in every young person going through the education system,” he said.
The Deputy President spoke on Tuesday in Munyonyo, Uganda, during the Africa Now Summit 2019.
Leaders attending the two-day conference, whose theme is “Towards a secure, integrated and growing Africa” are Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Uganda Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.
Others are Tanzania Vice President Samia Suluhu, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Mukhisa Kituyi and Chairman of Heirs Holdings and United Bank for Africa Tony Elumelu.
Having appreciated the power of technology in furthering growth, Dr Ruto said Kenya was scaling up training and support for innovation by financing and facilitating market access for young people to create, collaborate, test and improve concepts.
“This is how vibrant tech hubs arise, survive and drive structural change,” he noted.
At the same time, Dr Ruto urged African leaders to refine their education to focus on science, technology and innovation.
He said the move would help align training with market needs and to the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
He told the conference that Kenya was already implementing the “most ambitious programme on human capital development, focused on technical and vocational training”.
“This has seen an increase in the number of technical and vocational training institutions by close to 300 in the last four years,” said the Deputy President.
He added that for the first time since independence, the number of students enrolling in technical institutions in Kenya exceeded those joining universities.
But for these dreams to be made true in Africa, Dr Ruto called on African countries to accommodate the new maturity in political contestation in the continent.
He further noted that leaders need to uphold the rule of law, expression and assembly both online and in public spaces.
“Transparency is no longer an empty aspiration externally demanded, but is informing movements led by Kenya and others, for a true ethic of openness and civic participation in governance. We can forge a stable, peaceful, prosperous future for our youth without fear,” he said.
President Museveni said despite the continent being dotted by many think-tanks, most of them are after pushing the interests of the West “and they do not think about Africa”.
He noted that for Africa to be transformed, focus should be put on qualitatives rather than quantitatives.
“Our creativity is being erased and wiped out by cheap, sub-standard colonial imports. We must therefore integrate to further the Africa Rising agenda,” he said.
He challenged African leaders to work towards making the continent stable, observing that Africa cannot talk about transformation when some of the countries still face insecurity.
“Africa can be the engine of the world’s development if we strike out the bottlenecks that hinder free movement of factors of production,” he added.
Ms Suluhu said there was need for more women to be involved in making Africa better.
“Past experience shows women have the will and power to influence pro-poor policies across the world. As we seek to elevate our countries to the middle-income level, women should be at the centre of it,” she said.
Her sentiments were supported by Eddy Maloka, the chief executive officer of Africa Peer Review Mechanism who noted that there was an urgent need for leaders to work towards the United States of Africa vision.
“This has already started with the amalgamation of countries into economic blocs. This, however, must be supported by a homegrown development recipe by Africa for Africa,” explained Prof Maloka.
MPs accompanying the Deputy President in Uganda are Badi Twalib (Jomvu), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West) and David Njuguna (Olkalou).