ICT ministry roots for public-private partnerships to grow digital economy

Thursday, November 11th, 2021 17:35 | By
ICT CS Joe Mucheru. PHOTO/Courtesy

The critical role of the private sector and the need for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) were highlighted at a high-level summit this week held as part of Africa’s largest tech event. ICT Ministers from Kenya and Botswana joined the Secretary-General of the African Telecommunications Union and Huawei Executive to identify how to speed up efforts towards a Digital Africa.

Leveraging the resources and technical know-how of the private sector is critical to delivering on digital transformation goals. At the Africa Tech Festival 2021- Digital Africa Summit think tanks, industry experts, government officials and industry partners assessed the current state of digitization on the continent in light of the pandemic and stressed the urgency to make faster progress and make sure no person and no business is left behind by the economic transformation taking place globally.

Digitalization has been proven to strengthen economic resilience against unforeseen risks such as the pandemic. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the digital economy already accounts for more than five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in some African nations.

Globally, it is estimated that the digital economy grows two times faster than GDP. If countries harness the economic potential of digital technology, the percentage could reach an upward of up to 12-20 per cent.

During his speech, Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru reiterated the government’s belief in close collaboration with the private sector.

 “We work closely with the private sector to build infrastructure, help digitize our economy across all sectors, provide digital skills and drive demand for online jobs and Huawei is one of our active partners,” he added.

Africa’s digital economy has been growing rapidly over the last decade. This extends beyond infrastructure investments by governments and network operators to investments by businesses operating in sectors as diverse as agriculture, finance, logistics and tourism.

Consequently, digital technologies continue to unlock new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services that would have felt unattainable a couple of decades ago.

On the downside, despite growth of network coverage in many countries, including in Kenya where network now covers 96 per cent of the population, across the continent digitization still remains constrained by a major usage gap of those living in areas with network coverage but not using it, or using it very little, which hinders the benefits of a digital economy reaching many.

By the end of 2020, approximately 28 per cent of the population within sub-Saharan Africa was connected to the internet, with many constrained by the high cost of devices or internet data, as well as lack of awareness or skills to use the internet and applications fully.

A key role of government is providing a supportive policy environment that can unlock the potential of the private sector; the government can also kick-start progress through certain investments, partnerships and initiatives.

The Ajira initiative was highlighted by CS Mucheru as one such program that is implemented in close co-operation with the private sector through KEPSA, and includes efforts to improve skills and the wider ecosystem with multiple private sector partners. So far the initiative has created over 1.2 million jobs. The pandemic spearheaded technology adoption across multiple sectors, it highlighted the key role played by technology in our day to day lives and the economy at large.

As a country, Kenya has made significant strides within the ICT development front. Following the launch of the Digital economy blueprint—now being turned into a Strategy— fully attaining the benefits and exploring the full potential of the digital economy through the six pillars is within reach if all stakeholders—public and private organizations alike—collaborate to follow the roadmap provided.

The future of ICT in Kenya looks promising and the opportunities it presents are endless. The government not only plans to support innovation at the grass-root level but also dramatically improve the delivery of government services including healthcare and education thereby improving service efficiency and social outcomes.

During his remarks, the Huawei Southern Africa Vice President Mr. Yang Chen highlighted the four pillars that would help guide the continent’s pro-digital policies. These included: Connected Africa, Low Carbon Africa, Cloud-Based Africa, and The Africa of Youth innovation.

 “Huawei is ready and committed to working with the government in taking our common vision forward, growing the digital economy, and increasing Africa’s national competitiveness to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges brought by the digital era. “he stated.

Huawei remains committed to continue promoting digital inclusion through bringing digital to every person, every home, and every organization for a fully connected world.

To fully take advantage of the digital economy, more homes and businesses need to get online, Huawei will continue to support the expansion of fibre networks and, as 5G services are launched, provide Fixed Wireless Access to those not within reach of fibre in collaboration with the government and network operators.

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