The 2015 Transform Africa Summit, held in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, was an unprecedented gathering of global corporations and internationally known entrepreneurs in the information technology field. The Summit marked a major turning point in reversing the recent downward slope of the information technology industry in Africa.
Since the adjournment of the Summit, several African nations, including its host, have concluded major global agreements with some of the largest players in the industry, with news of additional research and development appearing on an almost daily basis.
What’s at stake for information technology in Africa?
As it prepares for a new round of technological development, the continent of Africa certainly faces a wide variety of unique and sometimes puzzling dilemmas. For example, while the nation of India possesses over one billion people, it makes do with a single connectivity policy that services the needs of its people. Meanwhile, the continent of Africa contains just under a billion people, with 54 nations and 54 separate connectivity policies.
The main challenge to heightening connections between residents of Africa lies not just in approving a connectivity policy that is compatible in all, or most, of its nations, but in fostering a cooperative environment in which such connectivity is allowed to spread and become the norm. While this may be a tall order at the present, there are plenty of signs that this new spirit of inter-African cooperation could one day become the norm.
African cultural traditions could usher in a new age of sharing
For example, during the opening session of the Summit, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, who serves as the ICT Minister of Rwanda, made some very interesting comments that showed that the minds of many influential African information technology experts were focused on digital sharing as the ultimate means of communication.
Nsengimana made the remark that the sooner such sharing policies were adopted, the sooner that the spread of information technology would digital transform and modernize the areas in which such communication was prevalent. By thus spreading communication around the continent, a new age of digital transformation in Africa could be ushered in.
While such an approach at first seems disingenuous, it should be noted that the governments of several nations on the continent have already embarked on the experiment of providing cheap broadband services in order to minimize the prices of mobile devices. By doing so, they have managed to provide cheap sources of wireless communication while encouraging the spread of new entrepreneurial activity throughout their jurisdiction and beyond.
How can the Digital Revolution impact Africa?
Signs of the extremely positive impact that the new wave of digital transformation is having on Africa are already well apparent. During the Summit, several newly minted millionaires were heard to give rapturous speeches on the transformation that wireless technology had on their businesses.
Businesses that were extremely localized in scope, sometimes consisting of no more than a single shared location in a run-down office building, have transformed into operations that are breaking the billion dollar mark in revenue after a scanty two or three years in operation. Much of this resurgence in economic activity can be traced directly to the new prevalence of wireless technology across the continent.
Meanwhile, it was revealed during the conference that, in the year 2007, global digital technology investments in Africa would total $50 billion over the course of five years. As it turns out, the Africa Development Bank reported global investments totaling over $70 billion dollars in the year 2013, and more money has since rolled in.
What are the main challenges to Digital Transformation in Africa?
As outlined at the Summit by Nsengimana, the main challenges to continuing digital transformation in Africa come in the form of finding a reliable source of energy to power the spread of technology, maintaining an adequate level of cyber security in order to protect the growth and development of new businesses in the region, and encouraging the spread of digital literacy.
While daunting, these are concerns that have faced other leading figures in wireless technology, such as Ehsan Bayat among many others. Much research and development is already underway in order to find new energy solutions to keep the continent’s many burgeoning wireless networks afloat.
Meanwhile, the spread of digital literacy is being assisted by a new wave of programs that are designed to teach new wireless users the rudiments of proper online etiquette and basic Internet proficiency. The introduction of more effective cyber security initiatives has given African businesses a new level of confidence and efficiency.
The future of Digital Transformation in Africa
While much work remains to be done, the continuing wave of funding and material assistance that is pouring in from international information technology corporations is being augmented by plenty of native-born entrepreneurship. This mix of local and international influences is bound to lead to some very innovative and noteworthy achievements. The present trend of ongoing digital transformation in Africa shows every indication of continuing to be a major component in securing a productive and profitable future for its people.
To learn how technology is affecting Brazil’s economy, see Digital Transformation Will Help Brazil Bounce Back.