According to many experts, the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will depend on digital technology, tools and skills. Giving the annual Adebayo Adedeji address at a recent UN Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Conference of Ministers, Chairperson of the global Alliance for Affordable Internet Dr. Omobola Johnson said there is enough evidence that Africa can be digitally transformed.

African digital transformation needs work

She cited a number of success stories across the continent and how they have used technology to provide services to the under-served, but said that many challenges remained.

“Affordability is an issue. The internationally agreed target is for 1gb of data to cost no more than 2% of the average national monthly income. In Africa, this currently stands at 8.76%, compared to 3.5% in Latin America or 1.54% in Asia. And the latest affordability reports show that this has increased over the past year,” she said.

She also noted disturbing tax trends, on digital infrastructure as well as utilisation taxes. These, Johnson said, can be seductive but can often have unintended consequences, such as increasing the cost of digitisation and curbing its transformative impact.

“There is an urgent need to strengthen the infrastructure and fibre network. Currently, when connecting Cape to Khartoum, the connection will go via London, New York, San Jose and Tokyo to arrive in Khartoum 409 milliseconds later,” she said.

“When you recognize these challenges and accept that there is a lack of scale amongst our start-ups it could be argued therefore that this digital transformation we speak about might be hyped. But the increased ownership of mobile phones and those that have access to it is having a true impact.”

Tawanda Sibanda, partner at global consultancy McKinsey, responded to the lecture, stating that digital transformation could raise GDP by 8% by 2025 and make $300bn of economic impact across health, education, retail, agriculture and financial services. “Despite certain metrics being ahead of schedule – smartphone penetration for example – this has not translated into macro-economic numbers as would have been expected. The percentage of banked for example, has only increased from 26% to 33% in five years,” Sibanda said.

Image credit


African Fusion

AfricanFusionAfrican Fusion, the official publication of the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW), aims to provide up-to-date insight into welding technology and the welding industry.

Capital Equipment News

Capital Equipment News is dedicated to the application of equipment and modes of transport that are used in the mining, construction, quarrying, and transport industries.

Construction World

ConstructionWorldConstruction World was first published in 1982 and has grown to become a leader in its field, offering a unique mix of editorial coverage to satisfy the diverse needs of its readers.

Electricity + Control

ElectricityandControlE + C publishes innovative, technical articles that provide solutions to engineering challenges in measurement, automation, control, and energy management.

Lighting in Design

LightingandDesignLighting in Design is a glossy, upmarket publication aimed at lighting professionals. It is the only B2B magazine in SA that is dedicated solely to the subject of lighting.

MechChem Africa

MechChemJanuary2017cover MechChem Africa supports African engineering and technical managers across the full spectrum of chemical and mechanical disciplines.

Modern Mining

ModernMiningEstablished in 2005, Modern Mining is one of SA's leading monthly mining magazines, noted for the quality and accuracy of its writing and the breadth of its coverage.

Modern Quarrying

ModernQuarryingModern Quarrying is firmly entrenched as a leading industry-specific magazine. It focuses on promoting the science and practice of quarrying and processing in southern Africa.

Sparks Electrical News

SparksElectricalNewsReadable and informative, Sparks Electrical News is the newspaper for those involved in installing and maintaining electrical supplies and equipment.