How digital transformation will secure a sustainable future for Africa

The impact of the digital revolution continues to rise globally. Many experts agree that it is the key to unlocking new opportunities aimed at improving society. Particularly in emerging nations, where there’s a socio-economic infrastructure deficit, which has resulted in extreme poverty.

While other nations have progressed with implementing digital transformation systems, African countries are still lagging. This means that all of the benefits that come with digital transformation are being missed. And, by benefits, we’re referring to efficient production and distribution of goods and services, enhanced connectivity to local and global markets as well as sufficient and integrated socio-economic infrastructure. 

Digital transformation in the African context

Digital transformation in Africa is, as mentioned above, in its infancy compared to other parts of the world. This is because Africa is facing investment challenges. While international investors have shown appetite in engaging and investing in Africa’s development, the growth in funds is not where it’s projected to be. 

This leaves digital development in Africa in a state of cataclysmic pause. As a development finance institution, we recognise the importance of digital infrastructure and our role in facilitating change, including driving universal digital literacy programmes in all communities.

DBSA’s role in digital transformation in Africa

The opportunities for digital innovation in Africa present themselves in many avenues where growth is lacking. But infrastructure development remains the main growth point that requires a significant boost.  

For a country to fully function, it needs sufficient and reliable social and economic infrastructure that allows seamless distribution of goods and services. Infrastructure that connects to all markets of trade and provides a country with a competitive edge in these markets. That connects citizens to quality healthcare, education and opportunities of skills development and ultimately, employment. 

The DBSA mobilises funds, which are used to develop digital infrastructure in the sub-Saharan African region. The Bank achieves this through various programmes designed to cover infrastructure projects within the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. These include; South Africa Connect (SA Connect) programme, the Internet 4All programme in Africa, and municipal connections. 

These projects have resulted in a significant expansion of connectivity infrastructure across the SADC region. This is further boosted by the undersea cables that connect Africa with four connectivity corridors, namely; Africa-Europe, Africa-Latin, America-US, Africa-Asia and African-region. Reaching this magnitude of connectivity has stimulated opportunities to address the gaps in the access network; which is called last-mile infrastructure. 

This is proof that digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, internet of things and 5G, among others, provide unique reliability and speed necessary for the creation and delivery of products and services to a wide population. With this in mind, our digital transformation framework is a full-circle approach, which addresses the entire infrastructure value chain and focuses on key long-term interventions. It spans across financing, planning, project and public infrastructure management. 

Final thoughts

The world is constantly evolving and forcing the population to embrace the changes that come along. And, countries around the world continue to experience rapid transformation through the advancement of technology. While first world countries gained their grip on digital transformation in its early stages, emerging economies are left to play catch up. 

The nations in Africa need to find innovative ways to fulfil digital transformation necessary to boost their economic standing. This way, they become equipped to participate in the global market to push the lives of their respective population forward and lift them out of poverty. DBSA’s work in this sector ensures that infrastructure aimed at accelerating digital transformation in developing countries is developed.

For the African continent to be considered a global player economically, socially and politically, digital infrastructure development must be prioritised. This article will highlight how this can be achieved and how the DBSA will play a key role.