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African countries must adopt data technology for sustainable growth in 21st Century

20 March, 2021
African countries must adopt data technology for sustainable growth in 21st Century

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 20, 2021 (ECA) - Data is an essential resource for economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, job creation and societal progress. It is used in almost every sector. Its application ranging from supporting small scale farmers to increase productivity to modelling and tracing the spread of pandemics such as COVID-19 and the improvement of basic services such as healthcare, water, and electricity supply chain. 

This was said Saturday by Ms. Leila Ben-Ali, Head of the Statistics Division at the African Union, while presenting a paper on harnessing technology and innovation during a side event on Digitalizing Migration Response to harness Africa’s Economic Development and Demographic Dividend in the COVID-19 Era held on the sidelines of the 53rd session of the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development

She said in October 2020 the African union had launched an initiative data usage programme aimed at ensuring that data economy drives equitable growth and socio-economic progress across the continent. 

“Data is the world’s biggest, most expensive and most important commodity. It narrows both information and time gaps. Africa cannot afford to ignore its potential for policy makers and social economic development,” Ms. Ben-Ali said. 

She proposed that data science by Africa for Africa led by African scientists can play a key role in addressing many of the continent’s challenges. 

“One example is sharing data across borders, ensuring that data meets the aspirations of Africa,” Ms. Ben-Ali said.  

There are fragmented efforts in Africa to fill the skills gap needed for more data units that are professional that will collect, store, analyse, interpret, and visualise data. 

“Challenges to a digital economy in Africa includes low internet penetration, which stands at 20% to 21.8 % of the population, leaving the rest offline. The AU is leading 15 innovations to harness digital technology to support AfCFTA implementation and achieve a digital single market by 2030,” she said. 

But Ms. Ben-Ali added, there was a half-hearted response by Member States, citing that only one of five countries has a digital legal framework and only 11 countries have adopted cybercrime laws. 

In her presentation, Ms. Janet Edeme, Head of Rural Economy and Agriculture Division at the AUC, said human migration has lately ‘reached unprecedented levels and is a defining feature of our time’. 

“Migration is dynamic and migration trends and patterns on the continent have changed over the past 10 years,” she said.  

“Cross border migration in Africa is an important livelihood and coping strategy during times of ecological and economic downturn, lack of employment and decent work, and is key to understanding as well as forecasting the onset and evolution of humanitarian disasters,” said Ms. Edeme. 

Over the last decade, deteriorating political, environmental and socio-economicconditions as well as armed conflicts, insecurity, environmental degradation, and poverty have been significant root causes of mass migration and forced displacement in Africa. 

The globalisation process has also facilitated the movement of people cross the various regions of Africa and to other regions outside the continent. As the number of migrants continues to increase, migration is a major issue in the 21st Century and poses a major challenge for policymakers engaged in the management of migration for the betterment of the continent. 

Migrants face challenges of being viewed as people who will take up jobs, accept low wages, stretch social and health services.  

Environmental factors play a key role in causing population movements and conversely migration has an impact on the environment.  

 Giving recommendations, Ms. Edeme said internal migration has an impact on local environments and there was therefore need to make cities safe, resilient, and sustainable. 

Issued by:
Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826