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In Summary

  • The African Union has set an ambitious goal of connecting everyone on the continent to the internet by 2030.
  • All stakeholders must all pitch in, failing which digital economy remains a pipe dream.

Digital innovation is creating unprecedented opportunities around the world.

It is a keystone for the economy, a catalyst for job creation and a promise that if well nurtured, can bring fortunes to the one billion people on the continent.

Buoyed by these promises, the African Union has set an ambitious goal — that by 2030, and with the help of World Bank, everyone on the continent will be connected to the internet, and will reap the rewards of digital economy.

The World Bank will fast-track this process by working with governments to ensure they get the continent webbed with high-speed internet, which is the backbone of a digital economy.

Data on digital technology’s contribution to the economy is uplifting. In the US, it is estimated that in 2017, the digital economy accounted for 6.9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), or $1.35 trillion.


Senegal, for example, has set a target of generating 10 per cent of its GDP from digital economy by 2025.

Rwanda has rolled out 4G and fibre connectivity, on which to hook e-government and other e-services across the country.

In its digital economy blueprint, Kenya aspires to be a nation where “every citizen, enterprise and organisation has digital access and capability to participate and thrive in the digital economy”.

Data from various surveys show that the ICT sector in Kenya expanded by 10 per cent in 2016 and 22 per cent in 2017, an increase that boosted Kenya’s GDP upwards by 1.6 per cent.

Although internet penetration in Africa has grown rapidly in the last decade, Africa remains the least connected region of the world.

Even among the connected Africans, huge disparities exist — women, children and the poor are less likely to be on the internet.


Paradoxically, sub-Saharan Africa commands the highest use of mobile phones on the globe, meaning there are ready tools on which to send internet signals. But the number of services on the mobile phones is dismal.

Whereas Kenya is the Africa’s Goliath of mobile money services across the continent, four in five adults do not transact business using the mobile money services, a crippling hurdle to accessing business opportunities especially for the women and the poor.

Even as Africa bets big on digital economy, reaping its fruits is a Herculean task that requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.

ICT and Finance ministries, telecom players, as well as local and regional internet platforms, think tanks and thought leaders, digital entrepreneurs and development partners must all pitch in, failing which digital economy remains a pipe dream.


African governments must also funnel resources — and offer appropriate leadership — especially to the five foundations of a digital economy, digital infrastructure, financial services, platforms, and digital entrepreneurship and innovation.

Importantly, to fan the fire of digital economy, African governments must promote digital literacy.

A digitally-illiterate population may remain poor bystanders as others enjoy the spoils.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Sam Wambugu

Quelle/Source: Daily Nation, 02.06.2019

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