This week at the African Union Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa leaders from the continent are meeting on the theme of: “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: challenges and prospects for development.” Growing out of an increased recognition that technology is a critical element in supporting regional economic growth and competitiveness, the aim is to determine concrete action for the establishment of an Africa-wide information society.

The Heads of State will discuss the development of a harmonized policy framework for the ICT sector, and the development of national ICT promotion plans. It is expected that this will result in commitments to create an enabling environment for ICT development in order to promote investment in the sector and build infrastructure.
Microsoft has been a long time believer in the power of ICT to help regions develop internally and through sustainable means, especially by supporting local entrepreneurship and the growth of a local software economy.

Dr. Cheick Diarra, Microsoft Chairman for Africa, attended the opening session of the Summit. In September 2009 he co-chaired the EU-Africa Business Forum, also attended by many of the same African leaders, which provided recommendations on how ICT can be leveraged as a critical backbone of economic development and regional integration—among other factors like trade, entrepreneurship, infrastructure and energy. 

In Dr. Diarra’s own words:

“We are at the cusp of a transformation here in Africa. We are witnessing how investment, development and technology are helping to harness Africa’s abundant human capital, and helping create an environment in which rural and urban communities can realize their potential.
But to realize the potential of the broad range of technologies – mobile phones, computers, software and the Internet – resources must be matched by resourcefulness. The most constructive applications of technology will be the ones that are combined with initiatives by public-private partnerships, government leaders, educators and entrepreneurs.”
On the sidelines of the event, Microsoft signed new partnership agreements with three inter-governmental organizations to support the promotion of ICT and ICT policy in Africa: the World Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the East African Community (EAC).