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By ADMINMarch 1, 2022In General News

Digital Infrastructure And The Private Sector Remarks- Rt. Raila Odinga, February/March 2022

Just like those who had access to western education in the early days of the 20th century got a head start, it is getting clear that those who embrace the digital space will rule the 21st Century.

So Africa must pay extremely close attention to connectivity, data, voice, digitization and innovation with the aim of creating a fully integrated digital infrastructure.

ICT and digital literacy must be treated as absolute necessity and integral part of Africa’s growth.

Africa must treat internet connectivity as the key that is going to open 21st Century doors for citizens to access information and technology, accelerate the pace of the digital economy, connect people and the continent and create bigger markets which in turn attract investors.

Africa has done extremely well with the mobile phone, which shows how dynamic our people can be when given an enabling environment.

Mobile phone subscriptions have grown in Africa from 87 million in 2005 to 760 million in 2017, which is 20 per cent growth per annum.

This is the fastest growing market in the world as well as the one with the most potential. Mobile network coverage ranges from 10 to 99 percent in Africa – an average of 70 per cent.

With the mobile phone has come mobile money, which Kenya pioneered through M-PESA. Paying for a taxi ride using your mobile phone is easier in Nairobi than in New York.

M-PESA is now used by over 17 million Kenyans, equivalent to more than two-thirds of the adult population; around 25 per cent of the country’s Gross National Product flows through it. M-PESA is by far the most successful scheme of its type on earth.

The lesson from M-PESA and other mobile money transfer technologies provides is that Africa needs to pay attention to and promote homegrown businesses, innovations, solutions and partnerships. Innovation does not have to come from outside the continent for it to work.

Africa must therefore invest more in 21st century education that includes  entrepreneurship and innovation programs that enable the youth to start new businesses and create jobs right here in Africa.

The Continental Free Trade Area must make tech start-ups and E-businesses core pillars of envisaged trade, alongside traditional trade models.

Translating digital technologies into broad-based economic development will therefore be one of the crucial policy making challenges for Africa in the 21st century.

Driving growth will take a combination of increased access to faster and better quality internet connectivity, a growing tech talent pool, a vibrant startup ecosystem, and Africa’s commitment to creating the world’s largest single market under the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Governments must promise policy and regulatory environment that is friendly for private sector investments and operations.

Private sector needs to engage with us and give their input for the development of appropriate policies. The Smart Africa Alliance, led by H.E. President Paul Kagame, is a good case study on multi-stakeholder collaboration in this regard.

Private sector should also help us bridge the technology talent gap in Africa by redoubling its work with the youth in areas like critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship and digital skills such as coding, web and mobile apps development, data science and analytics, business strategy, personal branding and digital marketing.

Private sector needs to take a long-term view in investing in connectivity in areas and communities where it may not immediately make a strong business but where the investment would make a big immediate difference for such areas and potentially yield returns in the long term.

Google’s recent sub-sea cable running from Portugal to Cape Town along Africa’s West Coast is a good example.

Let us see even bigger and bolder bets in last-mile connectivity to the African Small and Medium Businesses and households.

The private sector should invest more in African-led solutions to African challenges. In the same way that mobile money has transformed access to banking for many across Africa, we want to see our continent increasingly becoming a source of global innovation.

For global businesses it means building more products in Africa, for Africa and by Africans. For our local businesses such as Telkom Kenya, who are already doing that, it means more of thinking globally and acting locally so that more of Africa’s innovations are exported to global markets.

Thank you.

svgRemarks Of Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, EGH. At The Orange Democratic Party National Delegates Convection, Kasarani
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svgKenya Private Sector Alliance Breakfast Meeting with Rt. Hon Raila Odinga, March 2, 2022.

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