Made in Africa: The role of localisation in African tech
Africa’s technology sector is exciting, multifaceted, and brimming with contradictions. Almost half a billion Africans are online, with another 300m projected to join their ranks by 2025.
That same year, the internet economy will likely contribute over 5% of the continent’s GDP. Riding on this expanding connectivity, African innovators are making serious waves – from fintech to transportation to e-commerce.
Conversely, while countries like Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda are on track to achieving universal access by 2030, 600m people still lack access to electricity.
Meanwhile, less than 30% of Africans have access to a broadband connection and Africa accounts for only 1% of global data centre capacity.
Though numerous path-breaking developments punctuate the continent’s digital landscape, they are occurring within still-significant structural and infrastructural gaps. Furthermore, the digital opportunity is concentrated in four countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya.
To move the needle for the continent as a whole, African nations need to become net producers – rather than adopters – of knowledge and innovation. This will only be possible if African governments centre local ideas, data, and approaches in their policy making and priorities.
Regulating innovation vs. regulating innovatively
Sub-Saharan African governments enacted 60 measures to boost technological innovation in the wake of the pandemic; several focused on expanding access to digital tools.
But even as African governments are addressing fundamental policy areas, such as digital infrastructure, inclusion, and skills, they are grappling with emerging issues, like cybersecurity, data protection, and fintech regulation.
As of 2021, there were “comprehensive” personal data protection laws in just 28 African countries and only 11 countries had substantive laws on cybercrime. Meanwhile, digital issues, notably digital privacy, intellectual property (IP) protection, and cybersecurity, are nominally addressed in trade agreements.
Knowledge is power
Central to this is knowledge. To unlock digital innovation at scale, African governments need to better generate, collect, and harness local data.
There are concerns that international big tech companies have been mining, monopolising and monetising data in Africa. They, thus, correspondingly limit the potential of African entities to produce their own technological advancements using these same databases. This relegates African countries to remaining net consumers and adopters of foreign technologies and innovations, or even suppliers of data points for global tech players. African countries can only move up digital global value chains (GVCs) by becoming their own centers of knowledge production and innovation.
Read full article at African Business