Digital transformation of Africa: hype or reality?

March 26th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT

The 2019 Annual Adebayo Adedeji Lecture on the theme “Digital Transformation of Africa: Hype or Reality” was delivered by Dr. Omobola Johnson, former minister of communication technology, Federal Republic of Nigeria and board member of the Web Foundation. The objective of the lecture was to raise issues that will help policymakers to disentangle the hype from reality for them to make evidence-based and reality-informed policy choices and decisions.

Johnson explained that digital transformation is not just technical but strategic policies that can condition the economy of the continent. The role of governments to set the vision and define policies is paramount for any digital transformation to occur.

The lecture had two main discussants, Amel Saidane, member of the advisory board of ECA Morocco, Digital ID and Digital Economy Initiative and Tawanda Sibanda, a partner at McKinsey South Africa. Saidane said that to build their own platforms, African start-ups must come up with initiatives to compete on a global level. This will be difficult and almost impossible if there are no change in policies by African governments, she said.

Sibanda gave an overview of the evolution of the digital market in Africa, stating that since 2013 over 200-million people entered the work force in the digital field. Despite these figures, he said Africa’s digital agenda cannot progress if the social dimension is not tackled: Infant mortality is high, lack of access to education and other social indicators are still very low. He said education is key, and that the African population must own its digital transformation to go to the next step.

Contact Economic Commission for Africa, eca-info@un.org

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