Technology can be used to unify and industrialise African economies, says Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel.
“Data is to the 21st century what oil and steel was to the 20th century. Africa must become more than a consumer market for digital services produced elsewhere. We must become innovators and producers too, exporting services and building capabilities,” said Patel.
The Minister said this at a dialogue session of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) Forum held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on Tuesday.
Patel, who was co-chairing a session of AGOA with United States Deputy Trade Representative, Ambassador CJ Mahoney, said digitisation provides opportunities for industrialisation, job creation, entrepreneurship, economic development and tax collection to fund social programmes.
The Minister, however, noted that the process of digitisation was uneven as many countries, including those in Africa, lag behind -- contributing to a digital divide.
"Technology is a potential platform for leap-frogging. Securing its benefits and realising its promise will require well-designed and purposeful public policy measures to promote data for development. It also requires a deep partnership with entrepreneurs and young people who develop the technologies that are changing our world,” he said.
He noted that technological advances offer a range of potential solutions to many social, economic and development challenges confronting African countries.
However, technological change can also be disruptive within societies and economies.
"We live in the age of innovation, a great age for humanity, with digital technologies and digital transformation changing every part of human life, from how we produce, consume, play, and engage socially," Patel said.
He noted that governments need to consider appropriate public policy, legislative and regulatory measures that may include competition, tax, and national security measures among others.
The private sector, Patel said, should take initiatives to use technology to expand economic inclusion and growth.
AGOA is a unilateral US trade preference programme that provides duty-free quota-free treatment for over 6 400 tariff lines from 40 AGOA-eligible sub-Sahara African countries, including South Africa into the United States market.
The 18th AGOA forum, which was held under the theme: ‘AGOA and the Future: Developing a New Trade Paradigm to Guide US - Africa Trade and Investment’, concluded on Tuesday. - SAnews.gov.za