The world is constantly evolving in response to the growth and development of technology and the digital economy. To adapt to these changes, young Africans, already at a disadvantage in some cases as the African continent lags behind other world regions, will need first and foremost to receive a certain level of technological training. Although the immediate priority for some African countries is to lift people out of poverty, it is nonetheless essential for the survival of our continent that we move forward toward the digital economy. Modern technology provides opportunities for companies to thrive, by enabling them to produce innovative goods and services that meet customer expectations, while expanding their product range.
In view of the obvious mismatch between the quality of education provided in African schools and the jobs available on the market, training for young Africans should go beyond the traditional spheres of competence in computer programming. It should be expanded to include the skills necessary for starting a business and should promote learning that is better adapted to the constantly evolving digital economy. Such an undertaking can only succeed if training centers are staffed by teachers who have the necessary skills to train young learners for jobs in the digital world.
However, to win the battle of the digital economy in Africa, we must ensure that young Africans are not isolated from their immediate rural environment. For Africa, the development of the rural sector is still at the very heart of the continent's capacity to emerge and grow, and can potentially play a major role in the promotion of job creation.
It is therefore crucial to ensure that the banking system is in tune with the expansion of a digital economy. In other words, it is necessary to create a digital consumer market that facilitates the development of start-ups unique to Africa. Above all, efforts must be made to raise consumer confidence in e-commerce, through appropriate legislation and regulations. The countries of Africa and their technical partners should work together to strengthen the capacity of African companies. It would also be wise to promote innovation and a culture of digital service and to invest in fiber-optic infrastructure to improve connectivity. Furthermore, the policies in place in some African countries that hinder the creation of an enabling environment for the digital economy must be set aside. Finally, Africa must have stable, reliable access to electricity and be in a position to draw on a special public guarantee fund to support innovative digital startups.
There is no doubt that digital technology is a powerful tool, but it is also a two-edged sword: it is a source of new technologies that make better environmental preservation possible, but it also pollutes the environment. The evolution of the digital economy was designed to help us migrate to a paperless environment and, in so doing, reduce our impact on the planet. But this failed to take account of the sector’s carbon footprint. Currently, the digital economy accounts for 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a rate equivalent to the emissions from civil aviation. Furthermore, according to the Green IT analyst firm, emissions associated with the digital economy are expected to double by 2019.
Is the transition toward the digital economy a new vicious circle or a wellspring of ecological solutions?
Isabelle Memadji, a Chadian national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.