Response to COVID-19 crisis builds momentum for Africa’s digital transformation: AU report

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ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) — The response to the COVID-19 crisis builds momentum for Africa’s digital transformation to overcome the pandemic and create more productive jobs, according to the 2021 edition of Africa’s Development Dynamics.

The report, which was published by the African Union (AU) Commission and its partners earlier this week, emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic “is the hardest shock to African economies in 25 years,” in which the gross domestic product has decreased in 41 countries in 2020, compared to 11 countries in 2009 when the global financial crisis hit.

According to the report, Africa’s booming digital sector offers an opportunity for governments to help kick-start a new growth cycle in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

By encouraging the spreading of digital technologies, data and interconnection to all sectors, starting with healthcare, African countries can accelerate economic transformation and the creation of productive jobs, in line with the major aspirations of the AU’s 50-year development vision, the Agenda 2063.

In just ten years, Africa’s total inbound international Internet bandwidth capacity increased by more than 50 times; the operational fiber-optic network extended by almost four times; mobile cellular subscriptions more than doubled, it was noted.

It also noted that about 58 percent of Africa’s population now lives in areas covered by 4G networks, and Africa has over 480 million mobile money accounts.

More than 500 African companies provide technology-enabled innovation in financial services (fintech), and over 640 tech hubs are active across the continent, according to the report.

However, the report said that innovations hardly trickle down to the real economy and create too few jobs. Only 26 percent of rural dwellers use the Internet regularly, compared with 47 percent of urbanites while in 37 African countries, more than 50 percent of the population cannot afford 1GB of data per month.

It also indicated that only 31 percent of all African firms have their own website.

The report, in general, recommended four policy actions for governments to accelerate digital transformation and job creation in all economic sectors.

The report recommended that African governments promote the dissemination of digital innovation beyond large cities. According to the report, only 35 percent of intermediary cities are connected to terrestrial fiber-optic networks. Connecting them can have a strong multiplier effect since 73 percent of Africans will live in intermediary cities and rural areas by 2040.

It also stressed the importance of investment in the development of Africa’s workforce skills and removing barriers that prevent smaller firms from competing and growing in the digital age. Enditem

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