In the twenty-first century, we have smartphones, e-commerce, social media, Fintech, ATMs, self-scan machines, drones, robots, and many other digital gadgets and tools which we may refer to as byproducts of digital technology. These digital products and services have all built up into making the world a global digital economy, hence more innovative economic and sociopolitical processes. 

Finland, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Germany ranks as the most technologically advanced nations in the world. However, not all these countries rank very well in Digital Competitiveness. The Digital Competitiveness Ranking measures capacity and readiness of world economies to adopt and explore digital technologies for economic and social transformation.

Source: IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, 2020

The list above has South Africa as the only digital poster child for Africa, showing that the remaining fifty-three states are lagging in the digitalisation of their economies. Although African states are now embracing the concept of digital economy, there’s the need to do more because digitalisation will play an indispensable role in Africa’s development. 

Below are some ways that digital technology can aid development in Africa.

Employment Creation and Poverty Reduction 

Despite having the world’s poorest people, Africa’s mobile economy created 650,000 formal and 1.4 million informal jobs for citizens, driving the continent towards a digital economy as mobile penetration continue to increase, even in rural areas. 

Source: GSMA Report 2020

The future of work is remote and digital-oriented. Therefore, African governments need to mordernise business and governance processes by embracing the digital economy. Doing this will help create more economic opportunities and improved livelihood for millions of people across the continent.

Advancement of Cashless Economy

African citizens have steadily moved from the use of physical cash to mobile money and Fintech applications for transactions. Several mobile money and Fintech applications are thriving across the continent. Examples are M-Pesa, JumiaPay, Opay, Flutterwave. USSD codes and bank apps also help to ease physical and e-commerce transactions. 

This significant change made African Central and Commercial banks make policies to protect and regulate e-payment platforms and create a cashless economy to drive growth and development. COVID-19 outbreak also intensified the cashless economy process in Africa.

Improved Logistics and Supply Chain Processes

Digital technology has slow adaptation in the Agricultural sector despite being one of the most vibrant sectors on the continent. Digitising the sector will aid farmer’s access to supply chain management, market linkage, advisory and financial services. 

Farm management softwares like Agrivi, AgriGo, Probity Farms, AkokoTakra, DigiCow have helped farmers make more informed decisions with their trade. Also, there are varieties of e-market places that can help in distribution and sales of farm produce, these solve many generational problems for Africa’s over 500 million farmers. We can also use drones for surveillance as mechanised farm inputs designed by indigenous tech companies can boost productivity.

Improved Access to Healthcare

Digitisation of the health sector will solve decades of healthcare challenges as many African citizens living in rural areas do not have access to primary healthcare. An article by Medical Futurist tagged Africa as a hotspot for digital health, this is close to the truth as tech solutions like mTRAC, Novartis, MitiHealth, mPedigree, Ubenwa, myPaddi, LifeBank are now used for basic medical emergencies within the continent. 

Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was reported that over 10,000 health workers got infected with the virus, Rwanda’s use of technology including five medical robots was applauded around the world, and made a rallying point for other African states to digitise their health sector.

Advancement of Transparency and Accountability for Good governance

Digital technology has become a tool for observing democratisation processes, good governance, electioneering and transparency in African states where its leaders lust for power.

For instance, Nigerian legislators sponsored a bill to regulate social media in 2019 because calls for accountability and reform started on social media, but it failed. Last week, Nigerian youths began protesting online and offline for the proscription of SARS, a unit of the country’s Police Force known for extortion, torture, and extrajudicial killings. It has since gained international momentum, fueling calls for police reforms in the country. 

Technology brought a fundamental change to the way we do things, and it cuts across both private and public sectors. But for Africa, the level of impact it will play will depend on how African leaders and citizens embrace it because the choice will either make or mar the continent’s development.

This article conveys the views of the author and not necessarily that of Ominira Initiative.

About the author

Olakunle Mohammed

Olakunle explores the interlink of public policy, development, education and being Nigerian. He tweets @Olakunile