Covid has not only emphasised the need for connectivity but also accentuated the transition to the digital age. Many African countries have recognised their Digitalisation gaps and deficiencies during the pandemic, and some have chosen to address the problem by developing national policies and regulations, encouraging a digital uprising. In this article, we will look at how favourable regulations in some African countries have resulted in significant digital rewards.
According to the African Union, Africa offers many economic opportunities in every area, and the continent’s youthful population structure, represents a great opportunity at this time, where going digital is not only a trend but a necessity. Indeed, to accomplish socio-economic progress now and in the future, it is necessary to go digital. According to Gartner, Digitalisation is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities. This leads to the conclusion that the establishment of a digital ecosystem in an African country can stimulate the creation of jobs, financial inclusion and increase business revenue through E-commerce transactions and other digital services. As stated by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), the digital economy is becoming one of the main drivers of growth, accounting for more than 5 per cent of GDP in several African countries. It is a move they cannot ignore or bypass, for the world is slowly but surely evolving digitally. In fact, Digitalisation makes it easy for everyone at all societal levels to operate in any distinct activity, be it domestic or commercial.
Why are favourable regulations important to reap digital age rewards?
As the world is transitioning to digital technology, we cannot disregard the potential influence that some emerging technologies may have on the security and stability of states. Thus, it is in the best interests of African governments to adopt and adapt to the changes that new technologies may bring in order to monitor their impact on national security. This is done through the establishment of carefully planned regulations.
Regulations are prominent in the sense that they control activities throughout a country. They underpin markets, protect the rights and safety of citizens, and ensure the delivery of public goods and services.
Therefore, Governments, through a committee of regulators, should support and supervise digital regulations in a country and collaborate with major actors, such as international organisations or Telcos, to facilitate and measure all digital services.
In this regard, we can’t ignore the effort of the African Union in collaboration with other international organisations to help member states of the AU, to rise in this digital age. The well-known continental body, has created the Digital Transformation Strategy For Africa (2020-2030), whose objective is to use digital technologies and innovation to transform African communities and economies by 2030 as well as create a safe digital single market in Africa.
However, despite this initiative, only some AU member states have shown a willingness to collaborate with the continental union on the matter. The African Union has set a target of 1% of GDP invested in R&D (Research & Development), but data shows that only some member states are close to this target. It is important to note that AU cannot work alone on this project. It requires the cooperation of all state members to obtain the expected results. It is the responsibility of every government and regulator to establish an enabling environment with laws and regulations that foster a digital revolution. Hence, the importance of establishing favourable digital regulations in a country.
Which African countries reap the reward of great Digital Regulations?
As African governments try to embrace digitalisation, the impact of a favourable digital regulatory environment can already be seen in several states. Featured below are some African countries that are leading the way.
South Africa has the continent’s most inclusive digital economy, with the most significant levels of mobile penetration, internet and broadband usage. In 2020, up to 70% of South Africans had access to the web, and by 2023, South Africa had 43.48 million internet users showing a penetration of 72.3%. It could definitely increase in the incoming years. Also, thanks to favourable digital regulations and policies, South Africa is home to a number of tech start-ups, internet service providers and e-commerce businesses that are providing solutions to issues in many sectors, including Health, Labour, and Education.
Because of its population, Nigeria has Africa’s largest internet economy and the most tech businesses operating in diverse sectors. According to the GSMA, Nigeria will have the most smartphone connections in 2025, with 154 million connections. We can notice good digital regulations through the effort of the Nigerian government to invest in a digital economy. The Minister of Communications and the Digital Economy recently declared that Digital technologies have the potential to transform the world following the launch of a digital identity card for citizens.
Kenya has become one of the most technologically advanced African countries for quite some time. It has been a leader in digital transformation in the continent, with its digital economy contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 7.7%, followed by Morocco and South Africa at 6.82% and 6.51%, respectively. The country is working hard and steadily to use digital technologies in key areas for sustainable development.
The financial sector has been favourably impacted by Digitalisation, resulting in a significant boost to Kenya’s economy and leading position in East Africa. M-Pesa, for example, has transformed financial services by enabling users to transact, pay bills, and send money via mobile phones. In government activities, innovations were introduced, making every financial movement secure, trackable, and easy to access.
The Egyptian government is making major advances in digitising its services and policies. Building Digital Egypt is a mission that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) has taken on in accordance with Egypt Vision 2030 (a national agenda) and the country’s digital transformation strategy. This digital adoption is meant to prioritise policies and investments that support digital infrastructure and ecosystems.
The government intends to promote the use of digital technology across all industries, including public and private ones. In this regard, the GovStack initiative, which aims to turn the government into a digital platform that offers citizens quick, safe, and easy access to services, has been launched in 2022.
Rwanda was and is still working on regulations aimed at creating a great digital environment for its citizens. In 2016, Rwanda became the first country in Africa to launch the world’s first national drone delivery service, aiming at making several daily urgent blood deliveries to 21 transfusing facilities. In 2019, Rwanda launched the first “Made in Africa” smartphone called Mara X and Mara Z by Mara Group. The difference with other made-in-Africa phones is that while other African nations import the components, the Rwandan phone is manufactured in-house, from the motherboards to the packaging. Additionally, Rwanda is the first African country to join the C4IR network (Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) in partnership with the World Economic Forum in 2022. These centres aim to develop new policies and technological governance strategies to enable agility across a rapidly expanding network.
African nations are currently immersed in a digital revolution that is profoundly shaping their economic development and social progress. Favourable regulations play a pivotal role in this transformation, serving as catalysts that drive innovation, attract investment, and nurture entrepreneurship within the digital sector. Countries with forward-thinking regulations in place are not only fostering their own growth but also positioning themselves as attractive destinations for tech companies. This leads to the creation of jobs and facilitates the transfer of knowledge. As these African nations continue to harness the power of digitalisation, they are on the brink of unlocking even greater opportunities for their citizens and making significant contributions to the ever-evolving global digital landscape. In this digital age, regulation isn’t just a choice; it’s a cornerstone for progress and prosperity.
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Experienced Book Author with a demonstrated history of working in the online media industry. Katucia Moussongo is a Public Relations Professional specialising in content creation in both English and French.