April 27, 2023

Unlocking Africa’s Potential: The Urgent Need for Digital Transformation

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As a THINC fellow, I had the privilege to be invited to an inspiring event organized by Viva La Vida and Tencent last week. The topic of discussion was “Equitable digital future: Technology and social welfare,” and it left me with much to reflect on.

In this opinion article, I would like to share some insights on this topic, focusing on Africa and using tangible examples and case studies.

Advantages of technology in changing the lives of Africans:

Africa is a continent with a lot of potential for technological advancement, and we have already seen some inspiring examples of how technology can improve people’s lives. One such example is Irembo, a platform in Rwanda that allows citizens to access government services online.

Irembo has made it easier and faster for Rwandans to obtain essential documents like birth certificates, passports, and land titles, reducing the need for long queues and paperwork. Another example is Zipline, a drone delivery service that transports blood and medical supplies to remote areas in Rwanda and Ghana, ensuring timely and efficient healthcare.

Engaging the young generation

Young people are the future of any society, and engaging them in technology is crucial for building an equitable digital future. Africa has a young population, and it is essential to provide them with the skills and opportunities to participate in the digital economy.

Initiatives like Andela, a company that trains and hires software developers across Africa are doing precisely that. Andela has trained over 100,000 developers in Africa and has partnerships with companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, providing opportunities for African developers to work on global projects.

Engaging more women

Despite some progress, African women are still under-represented in the technology industry. Bridging this gender gap is critical for building an equitable digital future.

Programs like She Leads Africa, a platform that provides mentorship and training to women entrepreneurs in Africa to participate in the technology sector. Women-led companies like Wazi Vision, a Ugandan start-up that produces affordable eyeglasses using 3D printing technology, are also inspiring examples of what women can achieve in the technology industry.

Learning from China

China is a global leader in technology, and Africa can learn a lot from China’s experience in building a digital economy. Chinese companies like Huawei and Tencent have made significant investments in Africa, providing technology infrastructure and expertise. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has also launched an e-commerce platform in Africa, providing a platform for African businesses to access global markets.

However, Africa must be cautious of potential risks such as debt and technology dependency and ensure that any partnership with China is mutually beneficial.

The time is now for Africa

An equitable digital future is possible in Africa, but it requires deliberate efforts to provide access to technology and opportunities for all.

Farmers in Ghana using drones to get crop data

With the growing global trend towards digitalization and the opportunities it presents for economic growth, Africa cannot afford to be left behind. From access to government services to healthcare and education, digital transformation can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these essential services, ultimately benefiting African citizens.

In his address to delegates at the sixth Transform Africa Summit held in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, President Kagame emphasized the need for Africa to fully embrace digital transformation. He called for everyone to be connected to broadband and urged the use of digital platforms to reduce barriers to trade.

Overall, President Kagame’s address highlights the urgent need for Africa to leverage digital technologies to transform its economies and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital age.

Initiatives such as Irembo in Rwanda and Andela’s developer training program demonstrate the potential for technology to transform lives and build a more equitable digital future.

By investing in digital transformation and empowering its citizens to participate in the digital economy, Africa can position itself for a brighter future.

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