IT Nation, July 2017

How could technology feed Africa's attractiveness?

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Advances in technology have been disrupting social structures and business models for centuries. In our lifetime, successive waves of the IT revolution (PC, online, mobile, social network) have democratized data, empowered consumers and citizens, and germinated scores of new industries. 

The impact of this disruption has been felt nowhere more than across Africa, where exponential growth in mobile and smartphone penetration (MTN for instance, recently launched a $50 smartphone in South Africa), has fundamentally changed the way Africans communicate, access information and conduct business. In its publication Africa 2030: Realizing the possibilities, EY remains at the forefront of promoting the African growth story and has developed a robust data and knowledge base providing quantitative substance to support the “business case “for Africa.

Digital technologies could therefore be seen as a primary force of disruption and help African businesses to enhance existing products and services, develop new products and improve productivity. For example, a Cloud-based solution in Senegal called DARAL, is supporting farmers in their fight against stock diseases and livestock theft by allowing the identification and traceability of livestock, as well as of communication stakeholders.

From a governance perspective, African governments and leaders have a critical role to play in building a digital future for the continent and better shape democracy and accountability. South Africa’s “Find ‘n Fix” app, for instance, allows citizens to send GPS coordinates of potholes, broken traffic lights and other mishaps straight to the nearest municipality – thereby making local governments directly accountable. Another noticeable area is delivering citizen-centric services using technologies like cloud computing. Furthermore, governments can also assist to promote the growth of tech-driven businesses across Africa by providing and nurturing a skilled labor force, affordable internet access, a business-friendly environment and a culture of innovation.

If we accept the reality that physical connectivity will remain a major stumbling block to inclusive growth across Africa for at least the next decade, then the need to actively embrace digital connectivity is critical. However, efforts to harness the potential of digital technologies as a fundamental driver of inclusive growth, remain far too fragmented. What is required is a greater collaborative effort across governments, business and non-profit sectors. This will help to embrace technological disruption, and to adopt a systematic approach to fostering digitally enabled ecosystems in the continent with a particular focus on health, education and entrepreneurship.