Former minister in Nelson Mandela Government reflects upon the digital revolution that Africa must handle. It is an opportunity to seize so that this continent can play a leading role in the world.
The African ”new deal”
Africa is experiencing the dawn of a revolution, of a new course which could definitely emancipate it from poverty and make it a major player in the economic world. It is a digital revolution, where the development of broadband and its technologies have a key role. All major analysts and experts are so convinced. Also Jay Naidoo, the former South-African minister of Communications (in Nelson Mandela government) and current member of the United Nations Commission for broadband is sure about it.
“When I was a minister”, recalled Naidoo, “in Sub-Saharan Africa there were 600 thousand mobile telephones. Today they are more than 750 million, and market is growing rapidly.”
This possible African “new deal”, however, needs to be conducted so as not to turn into a missed opportunity.
“Technology must not be an end in itself”, said the former minister, “but it must be a means to improve human welfare; the values of equity, justice and dignity must be the main objective”.
La tecnologia come arma contro la povertà.
Technology as a weapon against poverty. Africa’s challenge is to be capable of exploiting its potential provided by the new technologies to tackle the problems which have affected it for decades in some key sectors, such as agriculture, health and education.
“We can use technology to spread educational contents”, pointed out Naidoo, “to teach and spread useful information on the correct lifestyle, nutrition, breast-feeding, maternal care”.
But the real battle is against poverty. On this point, broadband could help Africa to solve one of its greatest contradictions: being both the poorest continent economically and the richest in natural resources. New technologies can be useful to improve the internal circulation of goods and services and mainly to allow entrepreneurs and the African countries to work together. Till today, in fact, the lack of infrastructures and the weak regional integration have slackened the continental development.
“We act as 54 separate countries”, thought Naidoo, “and so we weaken our bargaining power towards the powerful economies and trade blocs. We have not benefited from the raw material boom in the last ten years.”
Africa, therefore, can look ahead with hope but also with responsibility. Broadband and ICT technologies can be an instrument to start a new chapter of the continent history. The important thing, like for all means, is to use them in the best possible way.