John Omo, Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union.

DIGITAL transformation is key if Africa is to achieve inclusive economic growth, create jobs and boost service delivery.

This is according to secretary general John Omo, speaking at the African Telecommunications Union ministerial forum at AfricaCom 2022 in Cape Town this week.

Participants were drawn from Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia, with theme for the forum: “Rise Stronger with Digital Economy: New Paths towards a Resilient Recovery and Growth”.

The participants hammered home the point that to ensure the development of the digital economy, African countries need to have a clear strategy and an implementation roadmap showing set objectives, indicators and milestones.

 Add to that favourable policies to encourage investment , improve efficiency, and enable the infrastructure, skills, digital ecology, and innovation needed to grow the digital economy and create a fair business environment for all investors.

ICT leader Huawei supported the forum, with its President of Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Leo Chen, unpacking the three major elements of digital transformation: digital infrastructure, digital services and digital skills.

Said Omo: “Africa needs digital innovation to spill over into all segments of business and society if we are to strengthen our digital economy.

“According to the World Bank, Africa requires US$100 trillion to achieve full digital transformation, and no one, in the public or private sector, has the capacity to do this alone.

“Through the power of investment and of regulation, together we can craft a framework that will give effect to the growth and development we want to see.”

There was consensus among the guests that digital infrastructure was key for digital transformation in Africa. 

In the countries represented at the forum, it became apparent that technology was being incorporated through government ministries, departments and agencies during the digitisation, with sectors such as education and agriculture benefitting.

Chen, unpacking the three elements of digital transformation– digital infrastructure, digital services and digital skills– said: “If we do these three things well, we can connect the unconnected people and businesses, fully unleash digital productivity, and develop the digital economy, no matter what its definition is.”

He added:  “To achieve this, Huawei innovates to impact with local partners, to find local solutions to local problems . We are a leading global ICT company, and technology is our most important asset.

`We want to keep what matters the most in Africa. That is why we have made signifi

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Francis Bisika, Principal Secretary of e-Government in Malawi, told the forum that 2 300 km of fibre network has been installed across even the most remote areas of the southern African country.

“We are addressing the issue of connectivity, especially in rural areas, we are also bringing fiber to the home, as well as business,” said Bisika. “Once we have the connectivity, we can address the issue of digital literacy. 

“We have also built a government data centre in which we are accommodating businesses and individual’s request for networking and storage, making ICT facilities available to as many Malawians as possible.”

  Zambia’s National Coordinator of SMART Zambia Institute, Percy Chinyama, painted a picture of a country that takes the digital economy seriously, with President Hakainde Hichilema placing him right in the presidency.

 “The digital sector has been given authority in Zambia. We are working to maximise the work of revenue generating departments and to reduce duplications of work and now have 240 government services online,” said Chinyama.

Also speaking at the forum was  Emma Thewofelus (26), Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, who said her country placed both ICT and climate change in its radar.

 “Digitisation and energy efficiency go hand in hand, and we are committed to working to increase levels of digitization and reducing our impact on climate change,” she said.

Ugandan Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi, noted that it was critical to include the youth in digital transformation, especially considering that 60% of the continent’s population was under the age of 25. 

Harnessing and retaining the innovation of its young people is critical for the future of Africa, he noted.  

“Even as we have increased the number of tertiary education institutions, levels of unemployment remain a problem, and so we are working towards greater job creation for graduates,” said  Baryomunsi.

At the close of the forum, it was clear that the development of the digital economy is measurable, and a joint communique was signed by all participants to endorse this thinking. – Zambezi News