SMART Africa is a bold and innovative commitment to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and usage of information and communications technologies.
The Start of the Idea
Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, and Dr Hamadoun Touré, then the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) created the idea. They started in 2013 where they organized a summit to develop concrete steps that would move the continent as a whole into the 21st century of Information Communication Technology (ICT) development.
More than 1200 delegates attended the summit. The delegates represented many states and governments, top executives of major global brands from the private sector, policymakers, academics, and civil society representatives.
The Declaration of Policy and Aims
The Alliance was charged with developing continent-wide goals and best practices for the implementation of Smart Africa. Most importantly, the Smart Africa Manifesto now has been endorsed by all governments of the African Union, extending its reach beyond the seven original signatories to all 53 African countries.
The main idea of the Alliance is stated in the Smart Africa Manifesto. The Manifesto has five principles or guidelines:
- To put ICT at the centre of our national socio-economic development
- To improve access to ICT especially Broadband
- To improve accountability, efficiency and openness through ICT
- To put the Private Sector First
- To leverage ICT to promote sustainable development
The objective of this partnership is to promote the SMART Africa agenda through three key interventions:
- Support implementation of the SMART Africa Initiative
- Monitor and Evaluate the implementation of the Smart Africa Initiative
- Promote the SMART Africa agenda
Private Sector as a Part of SMART Africa
Perhaps the most interesting development was the attention given to the private sector. African leaders agreed to put the private sector first. They reaffirmed the unique ability of the private sector to increase investment, drive job creation, increase productivity, and foster innovation. They also resolved to sustain efforts to turn Africa from being largely a passive consumer to becoming a producer of ICTs, by increasing the number of local innovation hubs. (1)
The Alliance also is helping to raise funds from development partners and the private sector to implement programs in participating countries. Lastly, the Alliance has established a framework to evaluate the progress made in the implementation of the Smart Africa initiative. (1)
Do4Africa is an Example in the SMART Africa Concept
Do4Africa or Digital Observer for Africa is a platform that identifies and lists innovative and digital projects in Africa. Furthermore, the platform collects open datasets relating to the African continent. It is a game-changing platform that facilitates the sharing of high-quality and up-to-date data on the technical and social innovations across Africa. The platform is built on 3 core values(2) :
- common interest,
- open datasets.
Do4Africa is destined to be driven by a growing community of entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, students and developers. The mainstream platform incorporates all types of digital projects, whether they were created by governments, companies, startups, NGOs, etc…
Creating a Digital African Community
By bringing together investors, innovators and project holders, Do4Africa is a platform that promotes innovative projects and therefore helps contribute to economic development.
Do4Africa catalogues projects that have a digital and innovative dimension. Projects are classified in categories such as digital infrastructures, e-government, e-education, smart economy, smart environment, social innovation, e-health and smart city.
The collaboration between Tactis and Smart Africa around the platform aims to help share and spread best practices on the continent, to promote a higher level of open datasets and to accelerate digital transformation in Africa (2).
Education for all Through Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
The International Investor Magazine (3) is pointing out how SMART Africa can make a change in education for African people. The magazine focuses on the impact of using ICT in education like:
- what is learned
- how students learn
- when and where students learn
- who is learning and who is teaching
The impact of ICT over the last decades has been enormous and the way ICT sectors operate today is vastly different from the ways they operated in the past. The role of ICT in education as we progress into the 21st century is hugely important and will continue to grow. When one looks at education through ICT in Africa, the change has been slower than other sectors have experienced.
Education for all through ICT will have a strong impact on what is learned, how it is learned, when and where learning takes place, who is learning and who is teaching. In the following, we will look into that area and its impact.
The impact of ICT on what is learned
For many years, curricula in schools across Africa have been designed around textbooks. Teachers have taught through lectures and presentations interspersed with tutorials and learning activities designed to consolidate and rehearse the content. Now curricula promote competency and performance, starting to emphasise capabilities and to be concerned more with how the information will be used than with what the information is.
The impact of ICT on how students learn
Just as technology is influencing and supporting what is being learned in schools and universities, so too is it supporting changes to the way students are learning. There are particular forms of learning that are gaining prominence in universities and schools, such as the use of the internet as an information source. Internet users are able to choose the experts from whom they will learn.
The impact of ICT on when and where students learn
ICT applications provide many options and choices and many institutions are now creating a competitive edge for themselves through the variety of choices they are offering students.
The impact of ICT on who is learning and who is teaching
Through the affordances and capabilities of technology, today we have an expanded pool of teachers with varying roles who are able to provide support for learners with a variety of flexible settings. Learners and teachers are free to participate and provide learning/teaching activities when time permits, this freedom has greatly increased the opportunities to schedule people’s activities.
- Stuart N. Brotman, TECHTANK, June 24, 2015 (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2015/06/24/why-smart-africa-is-smart-policy/)
- Tactis and Smart Africa launch the Do4Africa platform to boost digital transformation projects in Africa, Tactis 14 May 2019 (http://www.tactis.fr/en/)
- Smart Africa And The Beginning Of A New Era, International Investor Magazine 27th May 2019
Lucubrate Magazine September 2019
The photo on the top of the article: African Farmer stand in the green farm holding a tablet, by arrowsmith2