World Bank has projected that by the year 2060, Africa’s population will be as much as 2.7 billion people; Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is estimated to be at 860 million.
At the moment, at least 60 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. This figure also indicates that Africa has one of the largest youth populations in the world.
Africa’s economy has to be in proportional progression to keep up with the ever-rising population. Needless to say, the digital economy is indispensable as it intertwines creative and innovative technological solutions that not only reshape traditional marketing endeavors but also changes people’s lives completely.
It is not surprising to see that there is very little understanding of the digital economy in some African countries. Youth are most likely victims in less democratized regimes as such systems impede democracy by limiting active digital spaces for public participation through constructive dialogue on areas such as: investment, free trade, business, and so many others. To overcome this, it is imperative for governments to decentralize their policy formulating processes by opening up to the public in the digital sphere.
The time is also reasonable for African educational institutions to redesign their curriculum by establishing new marketing disciplines that reflect the new digital age. Incorporating this new intellectual development can help youth acquire technological experiences that will dictate how they can participate and benefit in the digital economy, for instance, the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which has started to replace thousands of workers across the globe. Africa has to put in place viable policies and plans to co-exist with this new development.
Africa must scale up youth-based enterprises by nurturing and empowering their creativity in innovation in areas such as: health, education, industry, agriculture, fishing, forestry, and other crucial sectors. This will create a resourceful pool of vibrant entrepreneurs and new business ventures.
Meanwhile, African nations should look to diversifying traditional markets to e-trade for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Environments should be favorable for African businesses to leapfrog from local/physical transactions to the international e-transactions which are more frictionless and convenient.
Africa MUST connect. Data, information, and communication are pivotal to transform into the digital economy. Therefore, there is an urgent need to re-examine how smooth internet experience is in Africa if we are ever to allow easy accessibility. According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), in 60 low and middle income economies surveyed, it was found that, ‘at the end of 2017, only 24 met the UN Broadband Commission’s target of affordable cost of a gigabyte of data not costing more than 2% of average monthly income’.
This actually means users were to pay an average of 5.5% of their monthly income for one gigabyte. This should not be a heavy burden. On the contrary, telecoms should lower their network costs to allow more involvement of people especially those in suburbs and rural areas. If they can tailor special/regional packages it would be a strategic maneuver.
There is more to be done. African governments, the private sector, and relevant stakeholders ought to invest in resilient ICT infrastructures such as: land-based fiber networks and wireless last-mile connections to ensure each individual gains access.
Africa needs an inclusive digital economy such as in the mobile money revolution— a digital economy that lowers inequality and poverty. It should be a digital economy for all, not for the wealthy or literates. Despite the fact that new technology might overthrow existing development initiatives it suffices to suggest it should also be tailored along pre-existing ideas.
Benson Mambosho is a digital supervisor for Tecno Mobile Tanzania