Can the Acceleration of Digitalisation in Africa Offset Some of Covid’s Impact?

Can the Acceleration of Digitalisation in Africa Offset Some of Covid’s Impact?

Written on 11/17/2020
Nolands Team

All over the world, but most markedly in emerging markets, one of the trends linked to the pandemic has been the rapid growth of digitisation.

In many countries and sectors of the economy, digital has moved quickly from a nice-to-have to a have-to-have. In the process, many see it as the one possible silver lining of a pandemic that will surely leave severe recession in its wake.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the foundation has been well set with a tenfold growth of internet access in the last two decades, much of it driven by mobile. So, while things have been moving steadily along, Covid has had the effect of focussing efforts and putting digital projects at the very top of the priority list in many sectors.

In Finance, Education, Retail and the Public Sector to name a few, big strides have been made in a very short time.  Examples of this are Nigeria’s widespread application of online medical consulting and Kenya’s pioneering work on ventilators. It is clear now that the delivery of things like learning, medical consultation, goods and service delivery and cashless payments have the potential to have a big impact on GDP growth.

The problem is that digitalisation and the surge of project successes has been way ahead of any growth of actual infrastructure, like the implementation of fibre. While entrepreneurs and techies driven by necessity have upped their pace, the actual ability to implement is being held back by the inability to deliver fast internet.

It would be a pity if this surge in digitalisation, brought in almost exclusively by events this year, loses momentum. National budgets, private sector investment and international funding has hopefully seen that digital projects, particularly in health and education, have the potential to be rolled out in scale and to lock in the recent advances made by so many countries.

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