accelerating africa's Digital Transformation

Charles Murito's profile photo
Charles Murito
Director of Sub Saharan Africa, Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google

Globally, we are grappling with an economic downturn, major health crisis and dramatic strains on fiscal resources that are reorienting our lives and livelihoods.

For Africa, the current global challenges have further exacerbated the pre-existing challenges that we face. Despite these once-in-a-generation challenges, there is an opportunity for Africa and other emerging markets to find innovative ways to accelerate the adoption of digital solutions and emerge stronger from the crisis. Technology served as a lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Africa’s digital transformation is already embodied through a variety of sectors such as fintech, e-Commerce, healthtech, media and entertainment, local transportation, food delivery and business-to-business (B2B) e-Logistics.

However, we are still at the nascent stages of digital transformation. For instance, almost half of households in the developing world still lack broadband access. In Africa, access reaches only 18% of households and affordability remains a major obstacle. Many traditional sectors of our economies have not yet realized gains from digitization. Additionally, where Covid-19 accelerated reliance on digital solutions, these households and sectors risk being left behind.

Rather than viewing digital transformation as a tool for catching up with the developed world, it is more of an opportunity to change the way we think about technology’s intersection with our daily life.

By increasing internet access to reach 75% of the population, Africa’s Internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion (5.2% of the continent’s GDP) and to create 44 million jobs by 2025.

Together with governments and policy makers, we have an opportunity to focus on 4 key pillars that can accelerate digital transformation: physical infrastructure, talent & human capital development, AI & tech innovation and a regulatory system that supports competitiveness.

That’s why Google is happy to support the launch of the Global Business Africa Initiative (GABI) organized by the Un Global Compact. This support between the UN and the private sector, which is aimed at accelerating Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development, brings global leaders together to put Africa at the heart of the solutions to global sustainable development challenges.

Through initiatives like these and partnerships with African governments, Google supports the investment in these 4 key pillars through our $1 billion pledge.
  • The landing of Equiano cable from Europe to Togo, Nigeria, Namibia and finally landing in South Africa facilitates the critical issue of connectivity and infrastructure. Additionally, in partnership with Econet, our Taara team is helping to bring internet connectivity to more communities.
  • Our zeal in supporting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the recognition that by enabling policies such as cross border data flows, Africa could become a market of 1.7 billion consumers by 2030 with a combined GDP of up to $3.4 trillion.
  • Skills development and investment in entrepreneurs across the continent is critical in empowering the talent and also spurring technological innovation. That is why through the Google for Startups Black Founders' Fund Africa, 60 selected startups will receive a total of $4 million to support their programs and help them scale their ongoing work.
  • The African Union, UN, and African governments are our key collaborators and we continue to engage and support them to ensure that the private sector contributes to public good through policies that foster competitive markets, tax regimes based on international best practices, and open rules-based digital trade frameworks.

We need concerted efforts across sectors to ensure that we avoid a compounded effect of a health and economic crisis and a digital gap.

Africa’s important role in the global economy is undeniable and when we commit to building a better future together, we will be unstoppable.