digital economy
digital economy

Experts and policy makers from across Africa have emphasized on enhanced role of the private sector in the digital economy towards regional integration of Africa.

This came on Wednesday at the opening of the first session of the Committee on Private Sector Development, Regional Integration, Trade, Infrastructure, industry, and Technology on the premises of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

Deliberating for two consecutive days from Dec. 11-12 under the theme of Private Sector Development and the Digital Economy in Support of Regional Integration of Africa, experts and senior officials from across the continent have reiterated on the need that Africa should entail and enhance the digital economies to facilitate regional integration through various channels, including the use of digital technologies, such as internet for trade, investment and tourism among others.

In his opening remarks, Stephen Karingi, the Director of ECA Regional Integration and Trade, noted that digitization is changing everything, and Africa’s development prospects are now tied to how Africans embrace the new development landscape.

Some of African countries are deepening the use of digital channels for the processing and delivery of a robust suite of government services, the Director said, adding that a segment of the private sector on the continent is also using proprietary channels, market places and social media platform to create and take advantage of market opportunities.

The value of the global digital economy is estimated at more than 11.5 trillion U.S. dollars and is set to rise to more than 23 trillion dollars by 2025, according to ECA.

With the largest and fastest growing young population in the world, Africa cannot afford to be left behind in adopting the use of a digital economy for its economic development and transformation.

Regarding the progress in digital economy on the continent, the Commission said the breakthrough of the digital economy in Africa is impressive and the growth of the digital technology has been one of the region’s biggest success stories during the past 15 years, with the public sector being the major contributor to this growth.

For the past 10 years, the continent has recorded the highest global growth in internet access, with an increase of 23.1 percent, from 2.1 percent in 2005 to 24.4 percent in 2018.

The Director of ECA Regional Integration and Trade stated that being cognizant of the importance of digital trade and the digital economy, the AU Commission and ECA are finalizing a digital transformation strategy for Africa, which will be presented at the AU summit in February 2020 for consideration.

The digital transformation strategy will help unlock the potential of the digital economy, he said.

The World Economic Forum estimates that about 75 million jobs may be displaced globally by a shift in the division of labor between human and machine, while 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between human, machine, and algorithms by 2022, said Mesganu Arga, Ethiopia’s State Minister of Trade and Industry, during his opening remarks of the committee meeting.

“African governments need to enhance to devise strategies for enhancing digital literacy and skills in order to develop local digital economies and to bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the workforce. Supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs, particularly in the digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies,” he said.

Speaking of a recent achievement in the private sector side in his country, Mesganu stated that Ethiopia has become the second African country after Rwanda to launch the electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), which he said will tremendously enable Ethiopia to provide smart logistics and services, conduct cross-border trades with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The platform will be pivotal in availing market opportunities and linkages for these SMEs with business across the globe. The likes of such investment will also serve as center of excellence and in training young entrepreneurs among others,” he said.

Speaking on their parts, The DR Congo Minister of international cooperation, regional integration and Francophonie, Pepin Guillaume Manjolo Buakila and the counselor at South Africa embassy in Ethiopia, James Thabo Mogale, have reiterated the need to further efforts towards enhancing the private sector participation in the investment in the digital economy among others. Enditem

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