Nairobi - President William Ruto has this morning officially opened the inaugural Connected Africa Summit 2024, that is taking place 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.

He noted that the young African talents, driven by their bold creativity and indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, are at the forefront pioneering advances in Fintech, agri-tech, renewable energy and digital services.

“With their brilliant minds, they are actively contributing to the growth of the global technology sector marking out Africa as an indispensable hub of technological innovation. They are a generation which has been socialized to internalize technology as a basic need and way of life that is essential not only for economic growth, but also as a vital tool for solving the most pressing challenges of our time,” he said.

The president further stated that through the Summit, the continent will lay a sustainable foundation of connectivity and empower its people to achieve the UN Sustainable development goals as well as the AU’s Agenda 2063.

He however noted that the continent still has a long way to go in getting ready for the digital economy and the future of work noting that the continent’s internet penetration rate stands at 36 percent, which translates to 473 million users, in a continent of 1.4 billion people. The current pace of development, he said means the numbers are likely to increase 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 percent, 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 $1.7 trillion to $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.