SA calls for digitisation as strategy to unify African economies

 

Africa can address the challenges of geography with a smart digital strategy that can connect economies and help industrialise the continent. This was the message from Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Ebrahim Patel at a dialogue in Côte d’Ivoire. Minister Patel was co-chairing a session of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) with the United States Deputy Trade Representative, Ambassador CJ Mahoney.

Minister Patel said that digitisation provides opportunities for industrialisation, job creation, entrepreneurship, economic development and tax collection to fund social programmes.

“Data is to the 21st century what oil and steel was to the 20th century. Africa must become more than a consumer market for digital services produced elsewhere. We must become innovators and producers too, exporting services and building capabilities,” he said.

However, Patel noted that the process of digitisation was uneven as many countries, including those in Africa, lag behind and contribute to a digital divide. “Technology is a potential platform for leap-frogging. Securing its benefits and realising its promise will require well-designed and purposeful public policy measures to promote data for development.  It also requires a deep partnership with entrepreneurs and young people who develop the technologies that are changing our world,” he said.

 

He noted that technological advances offered a range of potential solutions to many social, economic and development challenges confronting African countries. Minister Patel added that the technological change could also be disruptive within societies and economies.

“We live in the age of innovation, a great age for humanity, with digital technologies and digital transformation changing every part of human life, from how we produce, consume, play, and engage socially,” he said.

He noted that governments needed to consider appropriate public policy, legislative and regulatory measures that  may include competition, tax, labour market, SME-promotion, privacy and national security measures. He added that the private sector should take initiatives to use technology to expand economic inclusion and growth.

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