A distinguished panel comprising H. E. Dr. Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications of the Government of South Africa, Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, H.E Lindiwe Daphney Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development, Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), and Tinyiko Ngobeni, Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services described the formation of the African Digital Transformation Centre. The session was ably moderated by Ntsibane Ntlatlapa, Competency Area Manager of the Telecommunication Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who expressed his enthusiasm for the Centre.
During the session, the host country announced the African Digital Transformation Centre to support entrepreneurs and lead work on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This multi-stakeholder initiative will involve policy makers, entrepreneurs, financiers, academics, startups communities, technology companies, state development agencies and civil society, who will come together to address the challenges and opportunities of the changing environment.
In his opening remarks, Tinyiko Ngobeni observed that, although in South Africa, we a very efficient economy, “we need to grow into an innovation-driven economy or we will be left behind”. He described the economic challenges facing South Africa and the vision for the Centre, and how it will bring together the key ecosystems of technology, hubs and innovation, currently still working separately in silos.
- E. Dr. Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications of South Africa, stated that the Centre rings well with his vision. South Africans have plenty of ideas and usually consult, but we can’t engage in endless consultations – H.E. President Ramaphosa has said he wants action, noted Cwele, and we have to implement our ideas so they have real impact. H.E Lindiwe Daphney Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development of South Africa, described how, in four years, the Ministry of Small Business Development has put SMME issues high on agenda of government. She called for us to talk about technology and update the educational curriculum to reflect recent developments.
Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, thanked the Ministers for their clear explanation of the Centre. He offered ITU’s expertise and will work with the Centre as partner to help mobilize other partners to join. Mr. Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), agreed and expressed his great pleasure and privilege to be associated with the Centre. SMMEs contribute around 35% to GDP and to employment. Centres such as this can help distribute wealth and empower more people, which is for him a contribution towards greater peace in the world.