Indomitable digitalization: 5 simple marks on the advantages of the digital economy in sub-Saharan Africa

The figures show that the digital economy is becoming a large part of the global economy around the world. In many sub-Saharan African countries, aspects of the digital economy have already had a major impact on people’s daily lives. This is particularly evident for mobile payment. In a country like Kenya, mobile payment represents 10% of its annual GDP. Other factors, such as the appearance of equipment in the affordable device market and the increase in connectivity, reinforce the movement towards the digitization of socio-economics and culture. Consequently, there are many positive outcomes that these countries should focus on and improve on. Here are five of these benefits:

1. The digital economy enhances business creativity and entrepreneurship

The link between the digital economy and creativity is almost obvious. The main technological services of recent years are based on disruptive ideas. Creativity is the engine that allows us to address the problems around us and sixteen opportunities. Now is the ideal time to break the rules, build and innovate culture, find original ways to monetize ideas, and ultimately make a profound impact on society. The idea of ​​inventing a touchscreen medical tablet came to a young Cameroonian engineer while he was an intern at a public hospital. During his internship, he decided to address the critical shortage of cardiac surgeons by building a device that can perform medical examinations at distant locations and transmit the results to physicians for interpretation and diagnosis. Being and staying competitive in this digital age requires you to invent new business models and approaches around customers and market access. The good news is that people can be inspired by many successful examples in today’s world.

2. The digital economy has a direct impact on employment

There are many potential jobs linked to the ICT field, such as computer and electronic products, software publishing, telecommunications or IT. There is also a demand for specialists in the global ecosystem: mobile app developers, data scientists, and social media specialists. Of course, skilled workers are needed all over the world and this offers the possibility for anyone to boost their career locally or globally at any time, even from the comfort of their home. Self-employed people and entrepreneurs can take advantage of the many opportunities available to start their own business. But it is important to mention that people must work together, share new ideas, evaluate their projects and develop synergies. It may also be relevant for both employers and employees to reflect deeply on the change in working habits with the ‘Uberisation’ of the labor market.

3. The digital economy opens up Africa as a potential global market

Contrary to what some falsely think, Africa is not a country. But one of the promising prospects of the digital economy, especially for investors, is the possibility of looking at the African market as a whole or at least as blocks of potential customers with similar purchasing power and/or lifestyles. Today, many business executives and developers are increasingly targeting Africa’s growing urban consumers as they have become drivers of demand. Africa Internet Group (a start-up founded in Nigeria in 2012) now operates e-commerce businesses in 26 countries in Africa and recently received additional investments totaling $245 million to support its continued growth. Entrepreneurs today should have the mindset of African musicians as many have thought of their art as something appreciated in many African countries. And so they list cities where they think they will succeed at their craft: Douala, Abidjan or Nairobi, and even other cities outside the continent.

4. The digital economy induces positive social impacts

For some people excluded from the financial system, mobile devices have been a channel of access to some financial services. It has even been the first step to connect them with the rest of society. Today, with mobile money, anyone can buy a plane (or train or bus) ticket from a mobile phone without a bank account that requires formal proof of work, for example. There are still ways to explore aligning microcredit with mobile money in an optimal way that can address dynamic populations without the means and ideal projects to invest in. Likewise, fields like m-health and m-education are just beginning to be explored.

With the digital economy, the productive chain is a shortcut and collaboration is a path to great achievements. The fact that information is instantly available to everyone reduces inequalities between citizens. Everyone can be adept at taking their own destiny into their own hands without necessarily being affiliated with a powerful network. With the potential growth induced by these patterns and if different actors implement good practices, sustainable development is the normal result of these positive impacts.

5. The digital economy amplifies sustainable development

In fact, it requires fewer warehouses, fewer objects, and sometimes no need to stock; “Dematerialization” is positive for the environment. For example, if people buy fewer cars because they share them with other people through a digital platform, this can effectively contribute to a reduction in traffic in our cities and achieve a better ecological balance.

In addition to the social and economic dimensions, culture is gaining a decisive place in today’s dematerialized world, as stated in a recent UNESCO report. Now is the time to produce relevant local content to be used by a growing demand for books, music or movies. The quality of numerous tools allows serious artists to create and propose their work to the world. And it is even easier to access funds through crowdfunding and other digital financial facilities.

The digital economy is emerging in sub-Saharan Africa as a powerful catalyst for growth and development. But people have to learn to work together and be open to the world. There is a need to come up with creative ideas and find disruptive ways to make things happen. Opportunities are everywhere to meet personal needs and help others.

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