Technology, a means for economic development in Africa

Technology, a means for economic development in Africa

We have said many times before about the benefits of mobile and technology in African economies, but a recent article gives us another aspect of the vital role it can play. In the article, Dr Ulrich Spiesshofer notes the huge potential of Africa and the dynamism of Sub-Saharan Africa especially and the fast pace of growth in this area. Dr Spiesshofer is the president and chief executive of ABB, a technology company in Zurich with revenues reaching 33,8 billion dollars (2016). ABB’s products cover multiple fields like electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids and recently it signed a very significant agreement with IBM.

According to Dr Spiesshofer, Africa with the use of technology “has an historic opportunity to tackle challenges and such as access to electricity and the mismatch between regional supply and demand, as well as to create an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship, builds domestic markets and encourages the brightest and best to stay at home and play their part in their countries’ future success”.

He believes that Africa is now at the best position to take advantage of technological progress and create a new business model which will be beneficiary for the future of the region. Among others he proposes fast and effective solutions that could offer access to electricity to the 600 million Africans, who today are excluded. Additionally, he believes that manufacturers in Africa should turn their interest “to the substantial demand generated by their own markets, before they begin to think about exporting beyond the continent’s shores”. “The immediate goal should be to keep more of the production value chain within Africa” he adds.

Technology can play a key role, as described by Dr Spiesshofer.

“Here, new technology offers the means not only to scale up production and drive productivity at existing enterprises, but also to unleash a new generation of entrepreneurs, who can build the companies and industries of the future.

The internet revolution in telecommunications and financial services has already shown that Africa can leapfrog older and more established technologies.

While few households are equipped with a landline telephone in sub-Saharan Africa, more adults own cellphones in South Africa and Nigeria than in the US, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. In East Africa, mobile banking is a particularly common use for cellphones, and the practice has been adopted at a much higher rate than in more developed markets. Now, with the digital revolution in industry, Africa has a similar opportunity to make rapid progress in industrial production.

Businesses can make use of big data and connectivity to remotely monitor machines, plants and facilities, reducing downtime and increasing yield, and to develop new business models that rely on digital technologies to overcome distance and operate across borders.

Indeed, only by taking advantage of the benefits of automation, renewable energy, data analytics, cloud computing and other new processes will Africa be able to build robust industries capable of withstanding the competition they face today from lower-cost, higher-quality rivals in other parts of the globe”.

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