opinion | The digital economy in Africa: a revolution with three conditions

A 2021 study found that Africa now has over a billion mobile subscribers. To maintain this momentum and complete this transition, Africa must be able to activate three levers: public investment, educating its youth, and reducing digital emissions.

Public investment, the nerve of the fourth industrial revolution

In order to restore the economy, there is an urgent need to invest heavily in digital infrastructure. In a number of African countries, this priority is at the heart of national programs, as evidenced by the strategy of Egypt (“Digital Egypt”) or even the strategy of Senegal (“Digital Senegal 2025”). We can only welcome and encourage this voluntarism: the state must be the main initiator of this revolution in use, it must mobilize significant public investment, the only levers that allow countries to take control of their digital sovereignty.

In addition to access to finance, governments should also strive to formalize the clear and structured legal and regulatory framework needed for proper digital governance. The success of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the continent depends on it.

Learning is a must for digital growth

The digital revolution taking place on the African continent opens up enormous opportunities. However, in order to fully develop and be a source of socio-economic development, this ecosystem needs talent. Thus, learning is the cornerstone of the development of the digital economy.

The United Nations predicts that Africa’s population will double by 2050. Half of its inhabitants will be under 25 years old. On a particularly young continent, young people trained in the digital sector represent a real source of opportunity as well as a growth vector in the medium and long term. The training offers these young people the keys they need for their future success so many of them can start their own businesses. The African people have great ambitions and it is our duty to encourage and support them. As multinational companies, we must mobilize to create a global economic and digital ecosystem in which Africa is expected to play an important role!

For low-carbon digital growth

Dependent on public investment and the education of young people, the continent’s digital revolution must also seek to control its CO2 emissions through the development of renewable energy sources and the establishment of a certain amount of energy sobriety. Egypt’s COP27 in November 2022 shows that the African continent is fully armed with the threat of climate change, of which it could be one of the first victims, even though it accounts for only 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The explosion of digitalization on the continent should not coincide with the explosion of its radiations.

African countries have for several years recognized the importance of strengthening their technological capabilities in order to be resilient in the face of global warming. As evidence, the African Development Bank (AfDB) opened a debate in December 2018 on the importance of low-carbon technologies in combating climate change. Indeed, without sustainable (and affordable) energy, the path to a digital economy can be painful. This will negatively affect Africa’s growth, exacerbating the problems it will face. In fact, these were the messages presented at the Mobile World Congress 2022 (MWC).

Therefore, ICT infrastructure groups should work together with governments, local operators and civil society to build green and smart infrastructures. In particular, they should help them deploy 5G without the additional operating costs of electricity, while creating green, low-carbon networks. This commitment to an inclusive and sustainable digital economy must be our top priority.

Leave a Comment