Technology is giving Africa the opportunity to compete on a global scale – alongside the most developed nations on earth, according to William Mzimba, Vodacom Business Chief Officer, who spoke at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development 2018.
The three-day event aims to bring regional leaders together to find a coherent approach to advancing and accelerating the rate of development, addressing inequalities, improving energy access and food security, and uncovering new ways to create fair and decent employment.
“Africa is no longer as prejudiced as it was before access to technology became democratised,” said Mzimba, speaking in a panel discussion. “Today, we have access to the same technology and tools that presidents of developed nations have, and through the Internet, we have similar information at our fingertips.”
Making technology inclusive
In Africa, however, affordability and accessibility challenge the “democratisation” of technology.
“We can’t talk about sustainable development when there are people who are not part of that development,” said Mzimba. “As Africans, we have the opportunity to leapfrog the developed world by leveraging technology, but we need it to be inclusive in order to be successful.”
Making technology accessible to everyone – especially the youth – will drive innovation on the continent, Mzimba added.
“Within accessibility lies the power for people to access the information that can help them to develop products, services, and goods that we require,” he said. “Africans have the potential to out-innovate the world. We just need to put they tools they need into their hands.”
Collaboration is key
Addressing these challenges requires a collaborative effort between government and private sector, said Mzimba. “We need to come together and recognise that we are not going to be a winning nation if people don’t have access to the technologies that they need.”
Vodacom and other telecommunication companies have gone a long way to making devices more affordable and towards ensuring that connectivity is widespread and available.
“However, we also need to get the people that manufacture the technology to make it accessible in terms of lowering the cost and the barrier to accessing new technology,” said Mzimba. “And we need to get the youth interested in technology by introducing it to young people in schools and getting them to appreciate what they’re able to do with it.”
He added that, while the tools exist, drive and initiative are essential to ensuring that Africa participates in innovation. “Government, private sector, and the youth need to collaborate and recognise that we have the power to innovate and take on our own challenges,” said Mzimba. “We don’t need to rely on anyone else to solve our issues for us.”
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This article was published in partnership with Vodacom.