World Bank to Africa: Digitise your economies

Thursday April 11 2019

Africa is a global leader in mobile money

Africa is a global leader in mobile money accessibility because one in every five people have access to mobile money. FILE PHOTO 

By MARTIN LUTHER OKETCH

Kampala. The World Bank Group has advised African governments including Uganda to increase their broadband fibre network of 4G and 5G. This will enable them register high growth rates at the same time.
The World Bank says broadband infrastructure is key to economic growth in Uganda and Africa because it leads to increased economic productivity due to efficiency in output.

Addressing a televised news conference on Monday from Washington DC, the World Bank chief economist for Africa Dr Albert Zeufack, said harnessing digital revolution technologies offers a chance to unlock new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services in Africa.
“The digital transformation can increase growth by nearly two percentage points per year and reduce poverty by nearly one percentage point per year in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. This is a game-changer for Africa,” Dr Zeufack said.

Dr Zeufack said Africa is a global leader in mobile money accessibility because one in every five people have access to mobile money.
On the other hand, only 27 per cent of the population in Africa have accesses to the internet – a very low percentage compared to other regions in the world.

Technology adoption
He said although access to the internet remains unattainable for most people in the region, businesses are slowly adopting digital technologies to foster productivity. But few governments are investing in developing digital infrastructure, services, skills and entrepreneurship.

“Closing the digital divide relative to other developing and advanced countries is needed for Sub-Saharan Africa to take advantage of the opportunities that information and communications technologies are providing. African governments also need to put in place a robust legal and regulatory framework that fosters competition. Radical technological change and adoption are needed to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030,” he said.

In this context, the World Bank said the region should fully embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Africa’s digital revolution is not just a matter of connectivity and access, but implementing policies that support the adoption of digital technology. This includes measures that support high-quality and competitively priced internet rollouts.
Dr Zeufack said in harnessing the digital economy, special skills through education are required in African countries.

“Education, skills and labour market policies may help secure skills in the labour market to support the adoption and use of digital technologies. Education and training systems need to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation. Business-relevant education and training programmes should enhance workers’ reallocation across tasks, as technological opportunities expand or change and workers’ mobility across firms and industries,” he said.

He said African governments should ensure they invest in digital platforms that will contribute towards achieving universality in internet connectivity such that more people get connected to the internet.
World Bank country senior economist Racheal Sebudde, said Uganda needs to have a direct project for youth in the digital economy.

“Youth are the majority in this country. Having focused digital projects for them will go a long way in increasing their productivity through the internet,” she said.
Ms Sebudde said there is need to lower the cost of internet because it is very high for the people to afford it.
Responding to the World’s bank view, Marketing and Communication officer of National Information Technology Authority of Uganda, (NITA-Uganda) Mr Steven Kirenga, said World Bank has invested in Uganda’s infrastructure projects to the tune of $75 million.

Mr Kirenga said currently, Uganda has built broadband network covering 3,000Km and at the end of the is calendar year, broadband network coverage in Uganda will reach 4,200Km.

Closing gaps in digital economy

Narrowing the gaps in the digital economy requires complementary policies and assets. “Countries need regulations that foster connectivity and competition, digital skills that are technology-augmenting, labour and product market policies that facilitate labour reallocation as technological opportunities emerge, and policies and institutions that enforce cybersecurity. Competition can help reduce prices and expand usage,” he added.
Dr Zeufack further advised that the digital economy needs to reduce the divide in gender, income, and rural areas.

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