World Bank urges African countries to embrace digitalization: It’s the future of Africa’s workforce and economic growth

“In our experience, from our analysis, the increase in jobs associated with digitalization is actually not just in the high tech sectors, it is actually in agriculture, in industry, in services. So digitalization affects the whole economy, and therefore that is why it is so important” declared World Banks Vice President of Eastern and Southern Africa Hafez Ghanem in a panel discussion on April 13.

The panel discussion on the ‘State of the Africa Region: COVID-19 and the Future of Work in Africa’ coupled with the latest release Africa’s Pulse in April comes at a pivotal moment as the region strives toward post-pandemic economic recovery.

Having weathered the economic storm better than anticipated, and embraced digital transformation similar to much of the world, new evidence suggests digitalization is the key to the future of the African workforce and its economic development.

While many High-Income Countries like the U.S feel threatened by how digitization may eventually  take employment from the people, this is the opposite case for African nations. Digital is enhancing the productivity of existing jobs and creating new jobs, for people of all skill levels and backgrounds.

Recent evidence shows that 22 percent of the firms in Sub-Saharan Africa have started or increased the use of digital platforms in response to COVID-19. Governments have partnered with the private sector to deliver services online—for example, public health information campaigns, e-learning, and the use of digital payments, among others.

Digital technologies not only provide tools to enable governments and businesses to continue functioning amid social distancing; they also provide opportunities to boost productivity, create jobs, and build back in a more resilient fashion

They have the potential to transform and modernize agriculture. They can help farmers meet their ample information needs (weather forecasts, extension services, market information, and logistics). These technologies are already changing the way farmers work. For instance, comprehensive agronomic advice and market services are provided via multilingual voice, text, video, and spatial maps in Ghana.

Hafez Ghanem outlines how the World Bank, by partnering with the African Union will directly support Africa’s Trajectory to digital transformation. Most Importantly, they will invest in digital infrastructure to connect people to the internet. Then invest in skills, capacity building, especially for the youth since Africa hosts the youngest continent in the world. Another would be digital platforms for providing government services like education, social protection , and financial aid.

Ghanem ensures that by doing so he is  “ .. convinced that the future of our continent has to be with the digital economy and we need to invest more in that. And I think that this will provide the greatest opportunity for our youth and also for women”

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