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Digital economy boost in Africa needs new thinking: UNCTAD

Dec '19
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock
In 2035, one third of the global workforce will be in Africa, according to UN estimates. About 85 per cent of people on the continent today work in the informal sector and improving their fortunes and boosting the digital economy in African countries requires a new way of thinking, including from entrepreneurs, UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi said.

According to Kituyi, while many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries have yet to switch to digital technologies, a digital transformation is happening across Africa, led by SMEs and young entrepreneurs who are willing to take a risk and pioneer new business models as game-changers.

For example, Uju Uzo Ojinnaka, founder and chief executive officer of Traders of Africa in Nigeria, is helping others harness the power of technology. She trains women from remote areas of Rwanda to become computer literate and delivers regular talks to female university students to encourage them to embrace the digital economy. In South Africa, Basson Engelbrecht founded Hoorah, an e-commerce platform.

As e-commerce remains a relatively new concept to many, offering such services to small and informal vendors comes with some challenges, according to an UNCTAD press release.

Engelbrecht is part of a cohort of 122 entrepreneurs in the digital and technology space who operate open platforms related to e-commerce, logistics, fintech, big data or tourism.

They joined the eFounders Fellowship Programme, a partnership between UNCTAD and the Alibaba Business School, which was launched in 2017 to mentor 1,000 entrepreneurs from developing countries over a period of five years to empower them to become champions for the new economy.

The programme started when Jack Ma, Alibaba Group’s founder and former chairman, became UNCTAD’s special adviser for young entrepreneurs and small business.

Since the inception of the programme two years ago, the businesses of the 122 fellows spread over 17 African countries have created 3,400 direct jobs on the continent and generated $100 million in annual revenues. And these numbers are growing, the UNCTAD said.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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