The disruptions to overall economic activities in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic have demonstrated beyond doubt that digitalization has become more critical for the continent today than before. Already the pandemic has forced most African countries, institutions, and businesses to move to online platforms, accelerating a digital transformation that has been underway for decades. But there are still challenges faced by African countries.
In a bid to address these challenges, on 9-10 December, the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the African Union’s Specialized Agency for Capacity Development, will hold the 2021 Africa Think Tank Summit (the 8th in the series) on the theme: “Digital Transformation in post-Covid-19 Africa: Opportunities, Challenges and Options for Building Back Better.”
The Summit will provide a space for African think tanks and key stakeholders to exchange best practices and lessons, and to brainstorm on new innovative ideas and strategies for impacting public policy and supporting the implementation of Africa’s digital transformation agenda.
Currently, most African countries have digitalization agendas and are implementing several interventions aimed at contributing to the digital transformation of the continent. While at the continental level, a comprehensive Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030) has been introduced by the African Union (AU), countries are using digital technologies and innovation to transform their own economies.
However, despite the success achieved by Africa so far, data from GSMA Intelligence (the definitive source of global mobile operator data, insights and forecasts), shows that Africa still lags behind other regions (developed and developing). For instance, the percentage of the population covered by 3G and 4G networks in 2020 is respectively 76% and 58% in Africa, 94% and 84% in Asia, and 93% and 83% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
That notwithstanding, Africa is not doing badly in other critical areas. For example, internet penetration in Africa has increased tenfold since the early 2000s, compared with a threefold increase in the rest of the world. The proliferation of mobile technologies has also been particularly pronounced in Africa, having the world’s highest number of accounts (300 million). Evidence shows that there are more than 500 African fintech companies and over 640 active tech hubs across the continent.
Although Africa has made much progress, some longstanding challenges still remain, and explain the continent’s relatively low performance in digital transformation compared to other regions.
According to consultations done by ACBF, while weak human and institutional capacity has been cross-cutting, evidence shows that the capacities to implement policies for digital transformation and to mobilize adequate resources to finance digital transformation are the most important and priority issues to be addressed by African countries.
It is against this backdrop that ACBF, through the Africa Think Tank Network (ATTN), is convening think tanks to explore policy and implementation modalities that are essential to leveraging digitalization to build African economies back better in the Covid and post-Covid-19 eras.
Delegates will discuss what capacities are required to accelerate the implementation of the AU Digital Transformation Strategy (2020-2030) and how it translates into the implementation of sound digital transformation policies and actions at regional and country levels.
ACBF will work with its partners to deliver on the Summit and post-Summit outputs and outcomes and use the key messages and conclusions to develop a capacity building program to support digitalization policy formulation and implementation in African countries.