Thursday
June 11
2020

Viewpoint: 4 Ways Digitisation Can Unlock Africa’s Recovery

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The full human cost of COVID-19 in Africa is not yet known, but it is likely to be significant. Importantly, for many Africans, the longer-term socio-economic consequences of the pandemic is likely to be just as material as the health impact of the virus itself.

Decades of progress in poverty alleviation are now at risk. A recent report from the UN Secretary General suggests that the global poverty rate is projected to rise for the first time in 30 years pushing as many as a half a billion people into poverty. According to data from the World Bank, Africa will experience its first recession in 25 years.

Whilst there is no silver bullet for Africa’s recovery, we know that investment in digitisation will have to play a part. As the UN Secretary-General said recently about the post-COVID-19 world, “the future will be much more digital than the past.” There are some promising signs of the recognition for broad-based digitisation as one of the key learnings from this crisis. In March 2020, President Kenyatta of Kenya urged the private sector find ways to expand mobile money in order to reduce COVID-19 transmission through cash. As the African Union Commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid has also highlighted: “COVID-19 crisis has become the single biggest catalyst for digital transformation and has moved digitalisation from a niche market into mass adoption”.

But there is still a long way to go until everyone can feel the benefits of a digital society on the African continent. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than four in five students still lack Internet access, and by some estimates, only 1% of total retail sales are made online, compared to 24% in China.

Photo courtesy of xresch.

Source: World Economic Forum (link opens in a new window)

Categories
Coronavirus, Technology
Tags
coronavirus, digitization, innovation, poverty alleviation, social impact, technology, World Bank