Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid is a special guests of the African Union at its 32nd leaders’ summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Today, on the sideline of the summit, Kaljulaid was invited to the Smart Africa Board Meeting where she said Africa can overtake Europe in digitization.
“Africa’s vision is clear regarding the Smart Africa project. However much it will need to learn more from Europe, it is also likely to overtake them,” Kaljulaid said.
Estonia, a small Baltic state was left with few resources when it won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Today, each Estonian has a unique digital identity and chip card to access almost any government or private sector service by computer.
It has been globally rated as the most wired country.
Rwanda for its part has been slowly courting Estonia for years. In November 2017, President Kersti Kaljulaid visited Rwanda – then headed to Ethiopia where she met officials at the Aftican Union.
During her visit here, Kaljulaid said Rwanda and Estonia had similar mindset. The two nations could collaborate in the development of the e-governance systems and digital solutions, she added.
At the AU session on Monday chaired by President Kagame, he narrated the journey of ‘Irembo’ – the Rwanda’s attempt at wiring up completely.
From this portal, Rwandans can get land titles, birth certificates, visa, drivers licences, national ID and even permits to visit mountain gorillas.
Kagame said the digital identity is one sure way to make people productively participate in the regional and global economy.
But Kagame also raised security concerns. He said: “…digital systems can only function well when they are trusted. Information must be protected from unauthorised access. It should be clear who owns the data that people generate and how it will be used.”
Estonia’s embrace of cyberspace crashed to a halt 12 years ago when it was hit with three weeks of cyber attacks from IP addresses across Europe. The country nearly came to halt.
“Different digital platforms must also be able to communicate with each other seamlessly,” said Kagame today. “Otherwise, we are merely rebuilding the same fragmentation in the cloud that we have been working to transcend here on the ground in the African Union.”
Meanwhile, Ivorian national Kone Lacina, is the a new executive director for the Smart Africa Secretariat based in Kigali, replacing Dr Toure Hamadoun.
Kone is an Ivorian who previously served as the director general of a firm involved in integration of IT solutions with presence in the West African countries of Mali and Côte d’Ivoire known as Qualicom.