What Africa needs to achieve its digital economy potential

People stroll around during the opening of Africa’s largest tech and start-up exhibition (Gitex Africa) in Marrakech, Morocco.   PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The digital sector contributes about $200 billion to Africa’s $3.1 trillion GDP, but the continent has the ability to do more

Marrakech. Africa’s digital economy is expected to be worth $712 billion by 2050. However, for this to happen, the continent must invest more in digital infrastructure, business-friendly settings, education and youth motivation.

Currently, Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $3.1 trillion, with digital contributing approximately $200 billion, but stakeholders believe the continent has enormous potential to become the heart of the digital economy in the future years.

Agritech, manufacturing, fintech, logistics, e-commerce, and automation through the use of artificial intelligence across all economic activities appear to be fuelling that rise.

During the inauguration of Africa’s largest tech and start-up exhibition (Gitex Africa), Moroccan Head of Government Aziz Akhannouch said Africa is a continent with a lot of young people, and its economy can be developed through the use of digital technology.

The three-day event, which took off on Wednesday, is the largest exhibition of start-up businesses to be held in Africa. More than 900 companies, government entities, start-ups, and participants from at least 100 nations are participating.

“Africa is a continent with the potential to be a leader in benefiting from the digital economy. We have a lot of talent and enough resources; what we need is to make sure our young people are well skilled, well incubated, and care about them, along with making good use of our natural resources,” said Mr Akhannouch.

He said infrastructure is the key to development, and in that case, the digital economy needs suitable infrastructure and the promotion of innovation, as well as a friendly business environment to attract more investors.

He added: “Considering the economic crisis and the great changes that the world is witnessing today, digital technology has become an important and unparalleled pillar for economic development globally, and especially on the African continent.”

“Africa has increasingly worked to consolidate its position as a dynamic environment that supports innovation, and in this regard, GITEX Africa is an event to highlight the potential of the African continent and its rapid efforts in developing talent and skills in the fields of technology and innovation.”

The minister of Reform of the Ministry of Digital Transition and Administration of Morocco, Dr Ghita Mezzour, seconded him by saying the continent has the potential to benefit from the digital economy because it has all the resources needed; the missing thing is a proper plan and motivation for the young people engaging in digital innovation.

“Africa is the continent of the future, and the future is ahead of the world. We need to develop solutions based on AI, and with the majority of young people in Africa, we have a leadership position in the digital economy,” said Dr Ghita.

The UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Mr Chakib Alj, who is the host of Gitex global exhibitions, said that the most important thing that Africa should do is create a conducive environment for innovators, and the focus should be on investing more in the digital infrastructure.

Among the participants, Lacina Kone, CEO of Smart Africa, stressed the importance of digital by saying that technology is not just necessary but everything whenever you want to do something well.

“Every company is a digital company.”

During the discussion, Uganda’s minister of Science and Technology Innovations, Dr Monica Musenero, said Africa should focus on building platforms that enable rapid acceleration of the development of technology.

“We must also build the biggest resource, which is human capacity, for us to be able to rapidly identify needs and develop technologies that address our cultural and social-economic fits,” Dr Musenero said.