ICT Clinic (Punch Newspaper)

Role of digitisation in Africa [ICT Clinic]

The saying that Africa is indeed the last frontier of the global economy holds true in many ways. Yes, there are obvious challenges of poverty, malnutrition, corruption and other social vices, which a large proportion of global media prefer to focus on but the reality is that there are also tons of positive developments.

One of it is that the combined Gross Domestic Product of African countries is expected to exceed $2.5tn by the end of 2020. Okay, I accept that certain countries like Nigeria could have done a lot better given the amount of human and natural resources available to it but alas, that has not been the case. We must, however, continue to push both individually and collectively towards creating a more sustainable and progressive country.

The statement above is basically linked to the fact that for many Westerners or Asians that are not well-read or widely travelled, Africa appears to be some undeveloped continent, where strife and hunger are the order of the day. Penultimate week, was one that left me, both humbled and pleased, because of an invitation received by the Deputy Chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, Alexander Count Lambsdorff, MP and it presented me the golden opportunity to share with a cross-section of participants, comprising of members of the German Bundestag, (the German Parliament), diplomats, foreign affairs specialists, and some international experts, about the positive progress that young Africans are making by leveraging technology.

The event was held, as part of the German Bundestag week and featured other experts such as Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Director, Future of Diplomacy Project and Executive Director, Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School; Dr. Sandro Gayken, Expert on Cyber War, Founder, and Director, Digital Society Institute, European School of Management and Technology Berlin; Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access Now, New York and yours truly. We were all invited to discuss, digitisation, from different perspectives such as international affairs cybercrime, data privacy and international relations but my focus was digitisation from the African perspective and how young Africans, are working hard to change the narrative, while solving some of the biggest societal issues.

The knowledge garnered serving as a consistent voice for technology proved useful at the event because I was able to share thoughts with the audience using certain start-ups and initiatives as examples. One of my favourite examples is the Bank Verification Number, and how that policy has not only made corruption a little more difficult (although still happening but folks in the game have become a lot more innovative) unlike before when anyone could dump X billion naira into an account and no one would know.

Today, that is a lot different. How about the growth of lending especially to the middle/lower class? It has improved tremendously and the BVN policy has a strong role to play in the emergence of this thriving industry today. At the last count, there are over 20+ loan-offering apps on the market today, which has made it possible for everyday people to have access to soft loans despite the cut-throat interest rates.

I also mentioned briefly about the Treasury Single Account and how before now, the government struggled with managing and keeping track of its finances but today that is a lot more different because a local company, SystemSpecs, developed its existing Remita solution into ensuring that over 20,000 government accounts become a single account. Today, the Nigerian government, — Finish Reading on the Punch