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Digital transformation could be a game-changer for Africa; driving innovation, economic growth & job creation

20 March, 2021
Digital transformation could be a game-changer for Africa; driving innovation, economic growth & job creation

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 20, 2021 (ECA) - Digital Transformation is a key driving force for innovation and sustainable growth that can ensure the fourth industrial revolution transforms Africa into a global powerhouse, says Bernardo Sarmiento, the Director of the Trade Capacity Building branch of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). 

Mr. Sermiento was speaking at UNIDO’s side event titled, “Making the Fourth Industrial Revolution work for Africa” at the 53rd session of the Economic Commission for African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Addis Ababa. 

“Africa’s population is an opportunity to enable digital socio-economic development but digital transformation should be inclusive of all,” he said.  

Africa Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Amani Abou-Zeid, said for industrialization to happen, African countries should invest in technology and innovations as it will promote regional integration, generate inclusive economic growth, create employment and break the digital divide. 

“This will eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, ensure free movement of goods and services in the continent,” said Ms. Abou-Zeid. 

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Telecommunications, said African countries should partner to transition to the digital economy and ensure that no country and no-one is left behind because that is where the world is heading. There is no industrialization without technology, she said. 

“So far data indicate that only a few major towns in Africa - Lagos, Cape Town, Nairobi, Cairo and Accra - are our technology hubs. This is way below the level of the other continents,” Ms. Ndabeni-Abrahams said. 

“To leverage ourselves with the other continents, African countries should focus on including technology skills development, trainings, data coding, and entrepreneurship.” 

Bogolo Kenewendo, former Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry of Botswana, said the continent must address the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment to smoothly transition to the digital economy. 

“It is important to look at digital transformation and digital economy from our indigenous knowledge systems or products if we really want to be inclusive,” she said, adding that there was a gap between policy makers, implementers and the people, which is a hindrance to smooth digital transformation for Africa. 

“We do not need to invest millions in order to create innovation hubs. It does not require millions to put up structures. All that is required is a simple structure that can nurture youth start-ups and entrepreneurships.” 

Ms. Kenewendo said failure by African countries to work with what they have, “simply means that we are never going to deliver the fourth industrial revolution because countries think they must first be at the level of Silicon Valley.” 

She said African countries should formulate and implement laws, policies and regulations required to accelerate digital transformation for national, regional and continental development. 

 “To implement the policies and strategies, Africa needs to invest in diverse education, STEM and ensure access to internet for all. Innovation has to meet the needs of the continent, and address cyber security,” she said, adding that there was need to create awareness on issues that affect technology, including data protection.  

The Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is being held under the theme; Africa’s sustainable industrialization and diversification in the digital era in the context of Covid-19. 


Issued by:

Communications Section

Economic Commission for Africa

PO Box 3001

Addis Ababa


Tel: +251 11 551 5826