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Why digital technology will transform Africa

By MOHAMMED AMIN, Senior Vice President – Middle East, Russia, Africa, and Turkey, (MERAT), Dell Technologies



Technology is a platform on which collective human progress is built, transforming the fundamentals of commerce and production, and the ways we work and live. As an accelerator of development, it is also highly disruptive, redefining jobs and skills while also reshaping industries. Given the reach of digital technology and the change it promises, there is a need to shepherd these exciting technologies without diminishing its energy and potential – a role that nicely aligns with government priorities. 

The world around us continues to evolve with artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, 5G, cryptocurrencies, and the Internet of Things (IoT), improving how we communicate and exchange information. Increased digitisation and the growing interconnectedness of people, organisations, and machines is already having a profound impact on the world’s economies. Recognising this potential, government strategies today are emphasizing the role of digital in accelerating economic diversification, promoting sustainability and ensuring citizen happiness.

The digital sector in the Middle East and Africa region is poised for success like no other, with the tremendous push for digital transformation from national leadership, as well as the rapid adoption of digital technologies across the public and private sector. From robots to flying taxis to AI discoveries, the region is home to technological breakthroughs that were once figments of our imagination. With the goal of improving citizen experiences and fuelling economic growth, governments across the region have launched ambitious national transformation plans with a major focus on enabling digital transformation.

Specifically, across Africa, digitization has become the pillar that is driving growth and shaping the future digital economies in the continent. For example, the Government of Morocco has put in place a new set of policies and reforms in the Morocco Digital 2020 strategy that aims to shift the country’s focus to positioning itself as a digital economy to promote the effective use of and access to technology across various sectors. Similarly, South Africa’s National e-Strategy aims to accelerate the adoption of advanced technologies to transform and facilitate economic and social inclusion. And lastly, even countries in Emerging Africa such as Kenya and Nigeria have also taken significant steps to drive economic transformation, sustainability and future skills development through technology. 

These digital transformation agendas represent nation’s efforts towards unlocking the region’s potential to radically improve healthcare, education, public services, among others, all with a view to making a positive contribution to society and building the extraordinary future we will live in.  

Building centres of knowledge and innovation 

Reaping the benefits of digital transformation comes with the need to build skills and capabilities to drive efficiencies. As the government does more to attract, retain, and develop people with the required skills and capabilities, the country prospers. There is also scope for growing the exchange of knowledge and experience to address the unique growth and development challenges faced by the country or region. Dell Technologies recently partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF), to examine how emerging technologies will reshape our economy, lives and work over the next decade. The experts concluded that we’re on the cusp of the next era of human-machine partnerships. Essentially, we’ve worked and lived alongside machines for centuries but by 2030, these partnerships will become deeper, richer and more immersive than ever before, helping us surpass our own limitations. These machines, fuelled by exponential increases in data, processing power and connectivity will open-up new possibilities, beyond our grasp today. So, when we look at future skills development and building the workforce of the future, we need to understand that these areas allows us to unlock a lot of potential for the future growth of digital economies. New technologies can unlock new kinds of value and revenue generation. Thanks to automation, workers can spend time on more valuable, mission-critical work and less time on repetitive, automate-able tasks. Innovation with regards to social welfare has also resulted in better health and wellbeing with the introduction of new services. We are also seeing this in the development of clean energy, which is a clear and present priority for Governments and organisations the world over. 

Expanding business opportunities 

Digitisation spurs the development of new industries as in the case of e-commerce, mobile financial services, IoT, and cloud computing. These contribute to national GDP in multiple ways while also promoting growth of allied industries such as logistics, infrastructure, and payments. These opportunities are not only limited to the ICT industry, but also disrupts traditional industries to unlock speed, lower costs, and ensure higher quality. For instance, the manufacturing sector has been transformed with the incorporation of sensors and devices into equipment and machinery within an IoT network allowing for the speedier analysis of data and increased efficiency. This in turn leads to an increase in the region’s productivity and competitiveness – lowering unemployment rates and creating higher-wage and higher-impact jobs.

Exceptional citizen experiences

Creating a digitally connected environment also helps governments serve its citizens better. For instance, today’s citizens expect public services to be digital, personalised, and responsive and the use of advanced analytics allows governments to leverage data to do so. Social media and mobile platforms are replacing traditional channels to interact with government, report concerns, and provide feedback. In addition, technology helps enable and enhance citizen services that are key to improving the overall quality of life, which in turn promotes economic growth and increases the global competitiveness of countries. Across the Middle East and Africa region, we are seeing an immense number of initiatives where governments are rolling out robust e-government programs to transform the services they offer.

In summary

Winning in the digital economy requires a combination of technical understanding, pioneering leadership, and a sense of vision and determination to encourage an ecosystem of innovation. Leaders who engage with these possibilities today could be reshaping the economy of 2030 for the greater good. By placing new digital and ICT transformation programs at the heart of their national plans and through collaborations with leaders and entrepreneurs committed to building a better future, governments across the region are already leading the way in securing a viable future for their citizens while also raising their national competitiveness profile at a global level.