By Ijeoma Olorunfemi
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has encouraged African countries to make right investments toward developing a digitally transformed economy.
Mr Jean-Paul Adam, Director, Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources at UNECA, made the call on Tuesday during a webinar monitored in Abuja.
The webinar was organised by Africa Information and Communication Technology Alliance (AfICTA) in collaboration with UNECA with the theme “Unlocking Africa’s Digital Potential Amid COVID-19”.
Adam said that the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic had caused a disruption in activities, hence the need for a paradigm shift.
“Africa needs to address issues that have limited their digital growth. There are issues of gender imbalance, speed of bandwidth, poor internet access.
“When we get some of these issues right, we can connect a huge number of our population and we need to sustain the momentum of Fintech in growing our economies.
“Africa need to leverage on emerging technologies for digital transformation.
“We have the potential to grow our economies digitally, but it requires investments in the right sectors,”Adam said.
He lauded Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for using their locally developed digital technology to address the pandemic.
Mr Hossan Elgamal, Chairman, AfICTA, earlier in his welcome address, said the pandemic had created opportunities for ICT businesses to flourish.
Elgamal added that this was a time to invest in ICT infrastructures, address challenges in the tech ecosystem and the governance of digital transformation.
The chairman also said that synergy between the academia, AfICTA and UNECA would help harness ideas that could develop the sector in the continent.
Mr Lacina Kobe, Chief Executive Officer, Smart Africa, said that the African continent was advancing in digital growth, but needed to leverage more on its youthful population for development.
Kobe also added that countries in the continent needed to ensure the implementation of their respective local digital laws.
Mr Inye Kemabonta, CEO, Tech Law Development Services, while discussing on enhancing access and affordability of broadband in Africa, recommended developmental regulation.
According to Kemabonta, some African countries like Nigeria already have increased broadband, but the demand is low and causing the high cost of data.
“Most people do not use internet when they are not in need of it, but having a development regulation will compel demand and that is when people are convinced on why data is needed.
“If access to internet is made easy, demand will increase and the price of data will drop,” he said.
Mr Seun Olugbile, CEO Data Analytics Privacy Tech Ltd, suggested for the mobilisation of ICT stakeholders to use data to negotiate better business opportunities for Africa.
Olugbile also said there was need to develop a policy framework for digital Africa which could enable the use of data for regulation, asides for enforcement.
Mr Kojo Boakye, Director, Public Policy for Africa at Facebook, said the organisation was working on providing capacity for Africa toward sustainable digital growth for up to 25 years.
Boakye added that they were working with mobile operators globally to boost internet access.
He,however, called for appropriate government regulations to ease it of the responsibilities of digital transformation and enable private sector participation.
Mrs Nnenna Nwakanma, Chief Web Advocate, World Wide Web Foundation, said African countries should prioritise digital transformation policies and ensure implementation to attract investors.
Mr Jimson Olufuye, former AfICTA Chairman, called for Cyber security awareness to boost confidence of internet users, grassroots internet connectivity and reduction on the Right of Way.