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President Julius Maada Bio Addresses Blockchain Conference, talks about Africa’s Opportunity to Lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Kampala, Uganda, Wednesday 3 July 2019 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has expressed optimism about Africa’s opportunity to lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) when he addressed the Africa Blockchain Conference in Uganda on Wednesday.

In his keynote address on the theme ‘Africa 4.0: Preparing Africa for the 4th Industrial Revolution’, the President, who has demonstrated commitment to innovation by setting up one of the first such Directorates of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) in the region, said Africa had a greater opportunity at adopting new technologies to achieve unimaginable leaps on the development axis.  

“Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, and 3D Printing are some of the technologies changing the global economy, global governance, and even global security. Coupled with rapid automation, these technologies are significantly modifying our existing traditional notions of governance and development,” he said, adding that the advances in science, technology, and innovation were shaping the world faster than many industries and governments could react or had reacted to.

He called on governments to anticipate emerging technology penetration and further urged them to set up institutions that could provide leadership for driving 4IR initiatives.

“In Sierra Leone, I set up the DSTI in the Office of the President headed by a young MIT-Harvard scientist and inventor, Dr David Moinina Sengeh. The objective is to make Sierra Leone an innovation nation – a nation where agile, exploratory, and research-driven start-ups and initiatives led by young people can experiment at the appropriate scale. We aim to encourage entrepreneurship by incentivising the creation and use of new opportunities,” he said.

He emphasised that there were actually real opportunities in 3D printing for data visualisation, modelling, small-scale manufacturing, and medical uses, adding that Sierra Leone had just applied a new use case with 3D printing used for policy decision making.

“The other day, my team and I used our 3D printer to print a complex display of data representing the distribution of girls who were not in school in each chiefdom. The 3D printed model was used in conversations with several policymakers where screens or devices would have derailed the conversation,” he said.

President Bio also observed that the uses of 4IR technologies were limitless and extend from innovation in the production of new outputs that could be deployed to development and to supporting agriculture and crop production, value-addition and several other sectors of production.

“But this transition to digital must be agile, well-directed, and abundantly resourced within a vision that is developed with the people who will benefit from it; within a vision centred in Africa; with a view to what makes us African and how we wish to define our place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he warned, and suggested ways African countries could get prepared.

“First, there is the overarching policy context. Over the last two decades, several countries and regional institutions in Africa have developed policies for information, communication and technology (ICT), e-governance, and digitization. These policies have been domesticated in some countries and now constitute the national digitization vision of various governments. 

“Secondly, we know that governments should craft national digitization strategies that are specific to their own development contexts. Thirdly, Africa has a young population and investing in human capital development, through education, healthcare, and food security, will help develop a strong cohort of skilled workers who will drive science, technology, and innovation.

“Furthermore, Governments must also invest in infrastructure that supports 4IR… and must study best practices and use cases in peer countries and other countries that have successfully deployed 4IR technologies and see what to adopt for their specific development contexts. Finally, Governments must be attentive to regulatory and legal grey zones around data governance, data security, data transfer, data storage and data access,” he concluded. 

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