Malawi President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has asked the European Investment Bank (EIB) to consider extending its support to the science and technology industry, stressing that the sector is key to industrialization.
Chakwera made the plea when he held talks with EIB Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Ostrom, at the end of Monday’s deliberations during the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Doha, Qatar.
The Malawi leader recognized and commended the bank for the existing support in the various sectors, including water, sanitation, energy and agriculture.
He, however, asked EIB to consider its assistance to the ICT sector. He reiterated that Malawi places digital transformation on top of the government agenda, towards achieving the Malawi Vision 2063, as well as the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While also thanking EIB for the support it is providing towards rehabilitation of the M1 Road, President Chakwera emphasized Malawi’s commitment to realizing the completion of additional projects including, the water supply project for Salima through the Central Region Water Board and rehabilitation of the M1 Road from KIA Junction to Mzimba junction.
Other projects are rehabilitation of the ESCOM Eastern and Western backbone line and construction of the Malawi-Tanzania inter-connector; and improvement of energy supply in all major water boards, among other initiatives.
Earlier in the day, Chakwera held bilateral talks with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary General, Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, on the sidelines of the 5th United Nations (UN) Conference on Least Developing Countries (LDCs) in Doha, Qatar.
ITU provides technical and financial support to the government of Malawi on various ICT-related aspects.
President Chakwera explained that the whole purpose of establishing a Ministry of Digitalization in his government was to ensure the attainment of digital transformation, through access and affordable internet connectivity especially to young people.
Chakwera stated that his government realises that it needs to leverage on the opportunity that its demographic dividends offer, as Africa has a large population of youth who, if strategically included, can drive Innovations and development.
However, the President highlighted the challenges hindering Malawi’s digital development growth including high data and device costs, leading to access and connectivity deprivation.
Currently, Malawi has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in Africa, estimated at 19 percent, low broadband coverage standing at 35%, low smartphone penetration with only five thousand smartphones out of the 12 million registered simcards, high data costs, with the country rated as the third most expensive for data in Africa.
Bogdan Martin commended Malawi for making bold strides towards attaining digital transformation but made it clear that the country must focus on bringing down costs going forward.
She said the world already has network coverage but that usually, connectivity challenges are due to high data and device costs and lack of local content including e- Government services.
ITU mainly works with the Ministry of Information and Digitalization as well as Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) among others.
Other than providing a consistent platform for Malawi to engage and participate in ITU general telecommunications and ICT related business, ITU has assisted Malawi in numerous ICT related areas including Cybersecurity, and capacity building.