Digital Economy is the future of Africa
The world is paying greater attention to Africa, with the Continent poised to be the future global food basket, an essential energy source and the leading workforce producer due to its youthful and energetic population.
Realizing these factors, African governments are slowly but steadily embracing digital economy that stands to develop African economies across the board. Former Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Njuguna Ndung’u, however, emphasizes that digitization will only benefit those countries that invest in the required infrastructure and introduce commensurate regulatory technology.
In this context, the West African nation of the Gambia has taken an important step towards digital economy with President Adama Barrow appointing Mr. Ousman A. Bah as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, effective Friday, 24th June 2022.
The mandate of the newly created ministry is to digitize services rendered to the public.
Until his appointment, Mr. Bah served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Institute of Hardware Technology (IIHT) Gambia Limited.
Mr. Bah has over 20 years of corporate work experience at the Executive level in the Telecommunications and Fin-Tech industries. He served in Managerial and Executive positions and became Division Executive Leader of Heartland Payment Systems, Managing Director of Pure Energies, and Vice President of Bank of America Small Business.
Mr. Bah holds a BS in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix in 2004, an MSc in Systems and Networking Management, and an MBA in Business Administration from the Golden Gate University of California.
Minister outlines mission
In a recent interview with QTV, a private TV channel, the newly appointed minister outlined his mission, saying: “My vision in 3 to-5 years, is that I don’t want any Gambian go to an office to fill out a form; for you can apply for a driver’s license online, pay tax online, order coffee online.”
Minister Bah expressed his desire to help small businesses and build national digital infrastructure.
He also plans to review the digital infrastructure of all the government institutions: “I plan to carry out an assessment of the technological platforms that each ministry has to have a clear picture prior to designing and building infrastructure.
The Minister further noted that he would explore opportunities for support through cooperation with countries in Europe, India and the US that can help in some areas.
According to Mr. Bah, cyber security is among the issues the Government is concerned about to bolster national security, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and local and international experts.
Acknowledging the challenges, the minister noted that legislation, resources and capacity buildings are critical requirements for a digital economy.
Africa and digitization
Digitalization is one of the most powerful tools for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063; hence the African States are making strenuous efforts to take advantage of the modern technologies and digitizing services. According to statistics by UN Economic Commission for Africa, more than 80 percent of Africa’s population has a mobile phone subscription. In several African countries, the digital economy is becoming one of the primary growth drivers, accounting for more than 5 percent of GDP.
Despite current global challenges, many observers have identified the digital economy as an essential driver of long-term growth in Africa.
The World Bank notes that Africa has the opportunity to harness the digital economy as a driver of growth and innovation, but if it fails to bridge the digital divide, its economies risk isolation and stagnation.
The WBG Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) flagship initiative supports the digital transformation strategy for Africa prepared by the African Union (AU). The DE4A initiative recognizes that the digital economy can help accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the World Bank Group’s twin goals.
Meanwhile, the European Union has formulated a digital policy to help Africa with its digitization efforts. The policy, according to the EU, seeks to:
supporting the digital integration of the African continent under the guidance of the African Union;
supporting the deployment of affordable broadband connectivity and assuring a direct link with the EU through a cross-border backbone infrastructure;
helping African partners to equip young people with digital skills for the future;
using the potential of the African digital entrepreneurs to create sustainable jobs;
investing in deploying digital services such as e-government, e-education, e-health, e-commerce, e-agriculture or fintech to create inclusion, efficiency, transparency and better services for citizens.
Africa is in a better position to transform into a force to reckon with in the world provided that necessary investments are made in the digital economy, and proper legislations are in place.