Speakers at the recently held Transform Africa Summit 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda have echoed the sentiment that Africa, in general, needs to prepare itself to be able to take advantage of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement to grow the continent's digital economy. Key to this effort will be, as some panelists noted, will be connectivity, data, digitization, and innovation among others.
The panel that discussed growing Africa's digital economy included Pierre Guislain, Vice-president of Private Sector and Infrastructure and Industrialization at the African Development Bank, Lacina Kone, Director General and CEO of Smart Africa, Fatoumata Ba, CEO of Janngo, Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecom Group, and Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum.
“Africa can achieve a digital single market...It is a journey and we need to break it up into doable bits," said Guislain.
Internet business opportunities
With the ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, the possibility of new markets offer potentially new avenues for technology startups and e-businesses. There is no denying that the Internet has opened doors to the access digital technology which is a key component of accelerating the pace of Africa's digital economy and connecting its various regional markets.
As heard and discussed at the Transform Africa Summit, interconnection and interoperability create bigger markets which in turn attract investors.
“ICT and digital literacy is not a luxury. It is an integral part of how we view development,” said Dr. Boutheina Guermazi, Digital Director at the World Bank, who was part of the audience. Guermazi added that the foundations of the digital economy - connectivity, data and voice, would depend on a fully integrated digital infrastructure.
Boosting Africa's digital economy
This year's Transform Africa Summit ran under the theme of "Boosting Africa's Digital Economy" and it showcased success stories in the African digital economy and promoted homegrown businesses, innovations, solutions and partnerships. The mobile phone industry was one of the highlights and examples.
Mobile phone subscriptions have grown in Africa from 87 million in 2005 to 760 million in 2017, growing at 20% per annum. The industry is the fastest growing market in the world as well as one with the most potential.
“Business needs to be more of a driver. Domestic African private sector needs to go outside its borders to develop value chains…Africa has shown it can deliver,” Guislain.
The Summit was formally opened by Rwandan Prime minister Dr. Ngirente Edouard, who talked about Rwanda's ambitious plan to prioritize digital literacy for all youth by 2024.
“We expect to achieve at least 60% by 2024,” said Edouard.
Cover image cradit: Transform Africa Summit 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda.