How technology creates business opportunities in Africa – especially for women

Written by Staff
10/08/2015. Geneva. WEF Headquaters. Young Global Leaders and Alumni Annual Summit. Pierre Abensur/WEF. Discussion Group. Reaching the Summit of our Contribution. Shamina Singh, Plenary.

Technology and women in Africa is a hot topic.

At the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, held in Cape Town, spoke to Shamina Singh, president of the Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth.

On the last day of the event, Singh had just concluded a panel discussion on technology and digital transformation hosted by the center and the Fletcher School at Tufts University, Massachusetts. Talking about the importance of this topic, she quoted Prof Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School: “Digitisation in Africa could be what industrialization was for Europe.”

From Business Live.

What does inclusive growth mean to you?

There are 1.7bn people around the world who are not included in the formal economy. A lot of progress has been made over the past decade and, as a first step, at Mastercard we set a goal to achieve financial inclusion for 500m people by 2020. Now on the cusp of that goal, we recognise it’s just the start. Opening the door is important but the ultimate goal has to be inclusive growth – the long-term impact of our efforts. 

That means reimagining what growth means for everyone in today’s digital economy. Growth cannot be assessed using the mindset and measures of yesterday. It’s more than just an increase in wealth — it’s about human lives reaching their full potential. That means thinking about the whole ecosystem and connecting people to the networks that can not only help them get access to a system but also use it, grow from it and build a better life. 

In a world where more than a billion people lack access to even a form of identity and 3.4bn people, almost half the world’s population, still struggle to meet basic needs such as access to food and life-saving health care, this is about helping put more people in control of their own destinies. 

As Africa embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution at an accelerated pace, how do the latest digital transformation–and technology–trends affect the opportunity for digital inclusion?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things, robotics, data science and artificial intelligence are changing the way we live and work. However, we can’t have the internet of everything without the inclusion of everyone. 

Globally, technology is relentless transformation continues to gather momentum, presenting both challenges and opportunities for people all around the world. Building an economy fit for the digital age is a challenge that must be taken up by corporations, policymakers, research institutes, educators and philanthropic organisations, to safeguard employment and opportunity for all segments of society. 

The rise of e-commerce, entrepreneurship and digital adoption represents tremendous potential for inclusive growth across Africa. The continent’s burgeoning youth population, which is expected to grow by more than 50% by 2050, presents a significant opportunity to create a demographic dividend, unlocking further investment in digital infrastructure and creating a more robust and inclusive workforce.

Technology advances are driving the critical migration from cash to electronic payments, which is positively affecting individual economies in Africa and the global ecosystem at large. Across 70 countries studied by Moody’s, a 1% increase in usage of electronic payments produced an annual increase of $104bn in the consumption of goods and services.

As new tools and technologies are developed, financial services can be provided with greater speed, accountability and efficiency. These tools are helping segments of society and industries that are traditionally underserved in Africa: the micro-retail sector, the agriculture sector, the education sector, and female entrepreneurs.

Read more at Business Live.