Africa in the Digital Era – Hype or Reality? Adebayo Adedeji Annual lecture

Content provided by APO Group. CNBC Africa provides content from APO Group as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes. CNBC Africa is not responsible for the content provided by APO Group.

Former Nigerian Minister for Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, delivered the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) (www.UNECA.org) annual Adebayo Adedeji at the ongoing Conference of Ministers in Marrakech.

Held in memory of the Nigerian scholar Adebayo Adedeji – arguably one of Africa’s leading proponent of regional integration – the lecture focused around the question of digital transformation in Africa: Hype or Reality? “There is enough evidence that Africa can be digitally transformed. But what is holding us back? asked Dr Johnson when she delivered the lecture to ministers and a host of experts attending the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of Ministers.

As the world-wide-web celebrates 30 years, its inventor Tim Berners-Lee told a Nigerian audience recently that the country represents both the present and future of the web, when you look at how it is impacting lives in Nigeria, but also across the continent.

Adedeji was the ECA’s 3rd and longest serving Executive Secretary (1975- 1991). He is renown and admired for his relentless calls for Africa to move away from conventional ideas of international trade and economic development. He is also credited for championing calls that led to the creation of ECOWAS. It is also widely accepted that his ideas form part of the pillars on which the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is anchored.

Economic experts agree that, in the currently environment, the success of this continental trading bloc, will hugely depend on digital technology, tools and skills. Johnson cited a number of success stories across the continent and how they have used technology to provide services to the hitherto uncatered for or 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 two percent 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, both on digital infrastructure and utilization taxes, which although seductive, can often have unintended consequences, such as increasing the cost of digitisation and curbing its transformative impact.

She called for an urgent need to strengthen the infrastructure and fibre network.

Currently when connecting Cape to Khartoum, she said, the connection will take them via London, New York, San Jose and Tokyo to arrive in Khartoum 409milliseconds later.

She also decried how most of Africa’s connections are via undersea cables connecting via Europe or elsewhere. “It is the private sector that can solve this issue,” she said, “…but they also need to be supported and incentivized.”

“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.,” she stated

She added that many companies across different sectors using tech to transform their sectors from energy, to agriculture to healthcare. “But it’s work in progress,” She further urged governments to be more supportive and develop a long-term digital strategy. “We also need to be more innovative in our financing mechanisms to allow VC to borrow at low rates and help scale up innovators.”

She mentioned the urgent need to develop a pool of skilled talent that can turn the continent into the world’s digital talent pool in the same way that China became the world’s factory, through a large labour force and targeted government policy.

Invited to respond to the lecture, Tawanda Sibanda, partner at global consultancy McKinsey, looked back at the predictions they made in their Lions Go Digital report to assess progress. In the 5 years since the report was released the results have been mixed, he said. They had estimated that by 2025 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 those five years.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Media Contact: Mercy Wambui Email: [email protected]

Constance Haasz Email: [email protected]

About Economic Commission for Africa (ECA): Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) in 1958 as one of the UN’s five regional commissions, ECA’s (www.UNECA.org) mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa’s development. ECA also provides technical advisory services to African governments, intergovernmental organizations and institutions. In addition, it formulates and promotes development assistance programs and acts as the executing agency for relevant operational projects. Made up of 54 member States, and playing a dual role as a regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape, ECA is well positioned to make unique contributions to address the continent’s developmental challenges. The ECA is headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with offices in Rabat, Lusaka, Kigali, Niamey, Yaoundé and Dakar. Website: www.UNECA.org   About the Conference of Ministers: The 52nd session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (www.UNECA.org/cfm2019) is taking place the Palmeraie Golf Palace in Marrakech, Morocco. The Committee of Experts will commence on Wednesday, 20 March and end on Friday, 22 March 2019. The ministerial segment of the Conference of Ministers will take place on Monday, 25 and Tuesday, 26 March 2019. The twentieth session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM-Africa) and side events will take place on Saturday, 23 and Sunday, 24 March 2019 at the same venue.

Media filesDownload logo

Related Content

Coronavirus – African Union Member States (54) reporting COVID-19 cases (116,049) deaths (3,488), and recoveries (46,714)

African Union Member States (54) reporting COVID-19 cases (116,049) deaths (3,488), and recoveries (46,714) by region: Central (12,426 cases; 350 deaths; 3,281 recoveries): Burundi (42; 1; 20), Cameroon (5,044; 171; 1,917), Central African Republic (652; 1; 22), Chad (687; 61; 244), Congo (487; 16; 147), DRC (2,402; 68; 340), Equatorial Guinea (719; 7; 22), Gabon (2,135; 14; 562), Sao Tome & Principe (258; 11; 7). Eastern (12,983; 351; 3,438): Comoros (87; 1; 21), Djibouti (2,468; 14; 1,079

Coronavirus – Malawi: COVID-19 Daily Information Update (26th May 2020)

New cases: 0 Total confirmed cases: 101 Total active cases: 60 Total recovered: 37 Total number of tests conducted: 3372 Total deaths: 4Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Health and Population, Republic of Malawi.Media filesDownload logo

Coronavirus – Africa: Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest

Download logoHIGHLIGHTS Several countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have reported a significant uptick in daily cases over the past week, including Kenya and South Africa. All countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have now been affected by the pandemic, with Lesotho recording its first case on 13 May. Cross-border transmission is a rising concern. The pandemic has gained considerable pace in the region: numbers of people who contracted COVID-19 rose from 6,848 in 24 countrie

Coronavirus – South Africa: Member of the Executive Council (MEC) Albert Fritz meets with Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) on Khayelitsha Coronavirus COVID-19 hotspot plan

Download logoLast night, the Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, had a digital introductory meeting with the COVID-19 steering committee of the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF). Minister Fritz and officials of the Department of Community Safety discussed solutions to address COVID-19 related challenges in the community such as social distancing and flattening the curve. It was agreed that the Department of Community Safety will form part of the joint steering-committee established

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

Quite frankly, be candid… What African mining bosses and the minister call each other behind closed doors

For years it has been daggers drawn between government and mine owners in disputes over mining regulations that the latter fear are driving away investors from starting new mines.

Droppa CEO on adapting and innovating to the harsh realities of COVID-19

Covid-19 has left many businesses with the stark reality of closing down or adapting. One company that is doing the latter is Droppa. Its CEO Khathu Mufamadi joins CNBC Africa for more.

The harsh taste of COVID-19 on Famous Brands

Famous Brands, the owner of several of South Africa’s best loved restaurant chains has scrapped its dividend for the second half of its financial year to preserve its balance sheet. The owner of Steers and Tashas warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the group. Famous Brands CEO, Darren Hele joins CNBC Africa for more.

African Bank CEO on how the bank is cushioning its customers from the effects of COVID-19

The Covid-19 lock-down has put pressure on individuals and businesses’ finances like never before. But what can be done to ease the pressure? Basani Maluleke, CEO, African Bank joins CNBC Africa for more.

Trending Now

Elon Musk and SpaceX try to make history, plus everything else you missed: CNBC After Hours

CNBC.com’s MacKenzie Sigalos brings you the day’s top business news headlines, and what to watch as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep most of America on lockdown. On today’s show, CNBC’s Michael Sheetz explains what’s at stake in t

South Africa downgrades lockdown rules, sending 8 million back to work

Key Points South Africa to downgrade lockdown measures to level three on June 1. This means a full reopening...

Is SA’s mining industry too deep in the COVID-19 crisis?

The Covid-19 pandemic has far-reaching economic ramifications on the productivity and profits of many industries without the exception of the mining industry. For more than a century mining was a flourishing industry in South Africa. In 2019 it contributed close to R361 billion or 8.1 per cent to SA’s GDP and over R91 billion to fixed investment. It employed 454,861 people and paid R24.3 billion in taxes. Since early March, the mining industry’s average share price has dropped 10 per cent and individual companies have lost 30 to 50 per cent of their market value. Is mining too deep in the Covid-19 crisis? How can the mining industry pave the way to total recovery and become the sunrise industry it wants to be?...

How Richard Branson Is Trying To Save His Virgin Empire

Sir Richard Branson has cut a figure as a brash and rebellious impresario who took on big businesses with his larger-than-life personality, charm, and sheer guts. The Virgin Atlantic airline Branson started and grew from an industry underdog to a maj
- Advertisement -