Indomitable Digitization: 5 Simple Marks on Advantages of the Digital Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Figures show that the digital economy is becoming a large part of the global economy worldwide. In many Sub-Saharan African countries, some aspects of the digital economy have already had a huge impact on the daily life of the population. This is particularly apparent for mobile payment. In a country like Kenya, mobile payment represents 10% of its annual GDP. Other factors, such as the emergence of equipment in the affordable devices market and increased connectivity, reinforce the movement towards digitization of socioeconomics and culture. Consequently, there are many positive outcomes that those countries should focus on and enhance. Here are five such benefits:

1. Digital economy enhances business creativity and entrepreneurship

The link between digital economy and creativity is almost evident. Major technology services of these last years are based on disruptive ideas. Creativity is the driving force that allows us to address issues around us and seize opportunities. Now is the ideal time to break rules, build and innovate culture, find original ways to monetize ideas, and eventually have a deep impact on society. The idea of inventing a Touch Screen Medical Tablet came to a young Cameroonian engineer while he was an intern at a public hospital. During his internship, he decided to address the issue of a critical lack of heart surgeons by building a device that can perform medical examinations in distant places and transmit results to doctors for interpretation and diagnosis. Being and remaining competitive in this digital era requires you to invent new business models and approaches in relation to customers and access to markets. The good news is that people can be inspired by many successful examples in this current world.

2. Digital economy has a direct impact on employment

There are many potential jobs tied to the ICT field, such as computer and electronic products, software publishing, telecommunications or IT. There is also a demand for specialists in the global ecosystem: mobile app developers, data scientists, and social networks specialists. Of course skilled workers are needed worldwide and this offers the possibility to anyone to foster his/her career locally or globally at anytime, even from the comfort of their own home. The self-employed and entrepreneurs can take advantage of numerous opportunities available to start their own business. But it is important to mention that people should work together, share new ideas, assess their projects and develop synergies. It can also be relevant for both employers and employees to think deeply on the shift on working habits with ‘Uberization’ of the labor market.

3. Digital economy opens up Africa as global potential market

Unlike what some falsely think, Africa is not a country. But one of the promising prospects of digital economy, especially for investors, is the possibility to look at the African market as a whole or at least as blocks of potential clients with similar purchase power and/or lifestyles. Nowadays, many executives and business developers are targeting more and more the growing African urban consumers as they have become demand boosters. Africa Internet Group (a start-up founded in Nigeria in 2012) is now operating e-commerce companies in 26 countries across Africa and has recently received additional investments totaling $245 millions to support its continuous growth. Today, entrepreneurs should have African musicians’ mindset as many have been thinking about their art like something to be appreciated in many African countries. And that’s why they list cities which they think they will be successful with their craft: Douala, Abidjan or Nairobi, and even other cities outside of the continent.

4. Digital economy induces positive social impacts

For some people excluded from the financial system, mobile devices have been a channel for access to some financial services. It has even been the first step in connecting them with the rest of the society. Nowadays with mobile money, everyone can buy a plane ticket (or train or bus) from a mobile phone without a bank account that requires proof of formal job, for instance. There are still ways to explore the alignment of micro credit with mobile money in an optimal way that can address dynamic populations without means and ideal projects in which to invest. In the same way, fields like m-health and m-education are just beginning to be explored.

With digital economy, the production chain is a shortcut and collaboration is a path for great achievements. The fact that information is instantly available for everyone reduces inequalities among citizens. Everyone can be skilled to take his own destiny in hands without necessarily being affiliated with a powerful network. With the potential growth induced by those patterns and if different stakeholders implement good practices, sustainable development is the normal output of those positive impacts.

5. Digital economy amplifies sustainable development

It indeed requires fewer warehouses, fewer objects and sometimes there is no need to have stocks; “dematerialization” is positive for the environment. For instance, if people buy fewer cars because they share with other people via a digital platform, this can effectively contribute to a reduction in traffic in our cities and bring more ecological balance.

Beside the social and economic dimensions, culture is gaining a decisive place in the today’s dematerialized world as stated by a recent report by UNESCO. This is the time to produce local relevant content to be used by an increasing demand on books, music or movies. The quality of numerous tools allow serious artists to create and to propose their work to the world. And it is even easier to access funds via crowdfunding and other digital financial facilities.

The digital economy is emerging in Sub-Saharan Africa as a powerful catalyst for growth and development. But people have to learn to work together and be open to the world. There is a necessity to have creative ideas and find disruptive ways to make things happen. Opportunities are everywhere to fulfill personal needs and help others.