Transform Africa 2013-Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda - Carnegie Mellon University

Transforming Africa into a Digital Economy, One Step at a Time

Seven African Heads of State and over 2000 delegates gathered in Kigali, Rwanda for the Transform Africa Summit. This pan-African and multilateral event was co-chaired by H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Secretary General Dr. Hamadoun Touré of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to information and communication technologies (ICT). During the opening ceremony, African Heads of State from Rwanda, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Gabon, South Sudan, Kenya, and Mali shared their vision for leapfrogging Africa into a digital economy. President Kagame said, “We want to […] accelerate our development because we believe that success belongs to those who can innovate and those who seize the available opportunities.” This Summit was a follow-up event to ITU’s 2007 Connect Africa Summit, which aimed to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to bridge the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world.

Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda (CMU-R), a key partner of the Transform Africa Summit, was a direct outcome of the 2007 Summit addressing the goal to build critical capacity in the ICT sector through the establishment of ICT Centers of Excellence across Africa. Rwanda spearheaded this initiative by engaging Carnegie Mellon as strategic partner. In August 2012, CMU-R launched its Master's program in Information Technology, and will start offering a Master's in Electrical and Computer Engineering in August 2014. When asked about the Transform Africa Summit and the unique opportunity for CMU-R students, Bruce Krogh, Director of CMU-R said "This is an exciting time for young African entrepreneurs because Africa is the place where many innovations are going to be happening."

Carnegie Mellon was well represented at the Transform Africa Summit, frequently mentioned as a success story in higher education and a positive demonstration of public-private partnership. Dr. James Garrett, Jr., Dean of the College of Engineering and Chairman of the CMU-R Joint Advisory Board, participated in plenary sessions highlighting CMU’s role in educating Africa’s next generation of technology leaders and innovators; he also contributed to the discussion of the creating a “SMART Africa” and using smarter infrastructure as a foundation for achieving this goal. Ambassador Jendayi Frazer, Director of the Center for International Policy and Innovation and Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon, also shed light on the “SMART Africa” vision discussing the role of smarter agriculture and her experience in setting up a regional commodity exchange in East Africa.

Dr. Toure at CMU

The four-day Summit ended with the endorsement of the “SMART Africa Manifesto” which is a framework for achieving socio-economic transformation in Africa through smart implementation and application of ICT. With capacity building as a vehicle for transformation, ITU’s Secretary General Dr. Touré announced “a historic decision to support the Transform Africa Scholarship Fund to support Centers of Excellence like CMU-R” as one of the outcomes of the Summit.

On the closing day of the Summit, Dr. Touré visited CMU-R with Rwanda Development Board’s CEO, Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, Honorable Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, as well as ITU’s Regional Africa Director, Andrew Rugege. The high-level delegation addressed the students, faculty and staff of CMU-R, commending their achievements thus far and encouraging the students to be at the forefront of Africa’s digital transformation.

To watch recorded sessions of the summit, click here