During the recently held Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it was emphasised that in order for Africa to be competitive it will need needs effective information and communication technologies (ICT) policies & strategies. This, as was said at the summit, is even more important when considering the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation.

Speaking at the Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit in Addis Ababa, Oliver Chinganya, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) African Center for Statistics, explained that technology and innovation have been the backbone of African economic success over the last two decades but Internet and Internet-related penetration remained limited.

β€œThis relatively low level of the ICT maturity is limiting the government’s plans in many economic sectors, including its ability to deliver on the planned digitalization of the public administration services like censuses, health and education,” said Chinganya.

Lack of digital technology infrastructure

Although some progress has been made over the past decade, Africa as a whole is still lagging as far as digital technology is concerned. Specifically, in the telecommunications sector as well as with data centers to name but a few examples.

Chinganya elaborated by explaining that many African countries face a number of challenges regarding national ICT maturity, including limited information technology infrastructure, inconsistent electricity delivery, great disparities in accessing internet and mobile services, lack of appropriate legislation and excessive data costs.

β€œIn an era marked by intense competition, globalization, and increased importance of knowledge as an economic driver, it is important for organizations and governments to understand the dynamic and significant role that ICT play in enhancing competitiveness in the context of AfCFTA implementation. Therefore, there is a need for governments to establish and implement strategies and policies taking into consideration the effects of economic, social and technology factors on ICT maturity as well as relationship between ICT maturity and global competitiveness,” explained Chinganya

Africa suffers from low mobile broadband connectivity with less than 30% of Africans having access to it, compared with 79% of Americans. This, according to Chinganya, has an impact on the development of digital economic and social sectors such as e-commerce, e-health, e-government was constrained by high transaction costs, spatial constraints, limited information exchanges, and lack of access to international markets.

β€œTherefore, there is a need to balance infrastructure policies, making them more efficient and tackling the problems of marginal areas or groups and reaching the bottom millions to ensure inclusive information and knowledge societies."

Tech policy

During the summit, the ECA committed to a series of policy research on cyber security, open government, broadband, fintech, blockchain technology in Africa, youth and innovation adoption and diffusion, and on new and emerging technologies capable of supporting the development of financial inclusion in the continent.

These policy researches helped the organisation to identify the level, quality, and method of ICT deployment in different organizations and countries enabling it to proffer recommendations on the way forward to member States.

The 2019 Innovation Africa Digital Summit is the 17th annual IAD Summit on ICT acceleration and it took place from 10 – 11 June 2019 under the theme; National Agenda Acceleration.

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