On May 27, Digify Africa held a Twitter space to discuss Africa’s digital agenda. The space Qhakaza Mohare, included players from industry – Algorand-UCT Financial Innovation Hub COO Anda Ngcaba, founder and CEO of GovChat Eldrid Jordan and SVP Anna Collard from KnowB4.
With the youngest population in the world, the opportunity for growth in Africa is massive but only if the youth are empowered to realise their potential.
When asked what role government plays in the digitisation of Africa, Eldrid said that the government used GovChat to engage with citizens online and inform them of Covid-19. The pandemic compelled the government to embrace Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).
In 2014, 55 African countries adopted the Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, also known as the Malabo Convention but only 14 have signed. This is indicative of how Africa is treating cybersecurity. Anna said that South Africa does have some regulations in place, but that there is no enforcement or capabilities to act.
There is also a severe shortage of skills in the field. Talking to the New York Times in 2018, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that by 2021, there would be almost four million unfilled cybersecurity jobs. With a youth unemployment rate of close to 65%, it is crucial that the South African government places initiatives to up-skill the youth.
On the upside, fintech is attracting more funding in Africa. By 2021, Nigeria received the lion’s share of 51.7%, South Africa 19.9%, Egypt 15.6% and Kenya 6%. “Fintech players are incorporating blockchain technology and e-commerce is also addressing issues of financial inclusion – start-ups are offering lending and borrowing,” Anda Ngcaba.
SMMEs are the biggest contributor to the economy and need access to credit. Anda says that we need to create more innovations like digital wallets and involve mobile network operators for mobile money.
According to Eldrin, the government has made Africa’s digital identity a priority with the spectrum auction that was released which will see a decrease in the price of data. He says that the government is also digitising more processes.
For Anna, skills development, which will address unemployment, and the regulation of the crypto environment should be a priority.
There are many factors that hamper the growth of Africa’s digital economy – lack of mobile money, critical infrastructure, digital security and exorbitant data prices. Government has a responsibility to create an environment where citizens are able to participate.