Time for Africa to Step Up Its Digital Transformation
Africa could be playing a far greater role in the development of the global digital economy but it requires bold decisions if the continent is to influence global affairs, the global economy and the global imagination. This was the vision of economic change outlined in The Economist’s special Report on The African Century (May 2020).
Along with addressing critical governance issues, the continent needs to drive its regulators to become enablers and move faster to change the laws to allow for tomorrow’s economy, one based on mobility in vehicles, drones, smart grids, and cloud computing to name a few. Three critical but inseparable elements are required to ensure the digital revolution is truly transformational.
Currently, the regulatory infrastructure is fragmented—as in South Africa—or non—existent—as it is across most of the continent, though there are moves to address this. Regulatory frameworks for governance and regulation of technology businesses must focus on facilitating adoption (including licensing and registration) and operate at a national and continental level. It also needs to balance public security concerns and the need to encourage innovation, economic development, and youth entrepreneurship on the other.
This digital divide refers not only to the unequal access to ICTs (i.e. the measure of market penetration) but also the use of ICTs by those on the socio-economic margins. The accessibility, availability, and affordability of ICTs—everything from mobile phones to payphones and the internet—as components of digital transformation depends, however, on government policy and the prevailing regulatory environment.