It is crucial for African organizations and governments to understand the dynamic and significant role that information and communication technologies (ICT) play in enhancing competitiveness, especially in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation, a top Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) official said Monday.
Speaking at the Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit in Addis Ababa, Oliver Chinganya, Director of the ECA’s African Center for Statistics, said technology and innovation have been the backbone of African economic success over the last two decades but internet and internet-related penetration remained limited.
“This relatively low level of the ICT maturity is limiting the government’s plans in many economic sectors, including its ability to deliver on the planned digitalization of the public administration services like censuses, health and education,” said Mr. Chinganya.
He said many African countries face a number of challenges regarding national ICT maturity, including limited information technology infrastructure, inconsistent electricity delivery, great disparities in accessing internet and mobile services, lack of appropriate legislation and excessive data costs.
“In an era marked by intense competition, globalization, and increased importance of knowledge as an economic driver, it is important for organizations and governments to understand the dynamic and significant role that ICT play in enhancing competitiveness in the context of AfCFTA implementation,” the ECA Director said.
“Therefore, there is a need for governments to establish and implement strategies and policies taking into consideration the effects of economic, social and technology factors on ICT maturity as well as relationship between ICT maturity and global competitiveness.”
He said the continent is suffering from low mobile broadband connectivity (less than 30% of Africans have access to it, compared with 79% of Americans), and its impact on the development of digital economic and social sectors such as e-commerce, e-health, e-government was constrained by high transaction costs, spatial constraints, limited information exchanges, and lack of access to international markets.
“Therefore, there is a need to balance infrastructure policies, making them more efficient and tackling the problems of marginal areas or groups and reaching the bottom millions to ensure inclusive information and knowledge societies,” added Mr. Chinganya, who’s also Acting Director for the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management Division.
In this regard, he said, governments should make broadband not only accessible but also affordable to enable citizens to utilize digital technologies to access public services.
“To enhance global competitiveness, governments should encourage stronger adoption of the latest technologies, especially broadband technologies as well as to develop digital industrial capabilities including innovative capacity of their companies,” said Mr. Chinganya.
He added that key areas of human capacity building challenges need to be addressed for the continent to benefit from digital technologies.
“Therefore, there is a need to increase efforts to achieve sustainable development by investing in technology parks and other IT infrastructures, boost knowledge sharing and technology transfer, among others,” he told delegates attending the summit.

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