Despite all the positive developments and successes witnessed across Africa in the past decade, the continent continues to face enormous challenges as we enter the next decade. Institutional or structural reforms are lagging in many areas, investor confidence is brittle, debt unsustainability is emerging as a growing concern, while more immediate issues of political volatility or tax and regulatory stand-offs provide additional headaches for senior executives to overcome. Yet Africa’s digital revolution has been one of the shining success stories and will remain a key transformational driver in the year to come, helping the continent to tackle some of these more “analogue” barriers faced by business.
Successive telecoms sector liberalisations and a relatively light-touch regulatory approach applied in many countries has enabled innovation to flourish in the past two decades. Connectivity has ballooned, affordability continues to improve, and beneath the headline innovations, a multitude of technology-enabled business models have sprouted. As we enter 2020, the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will continue to have profound ramifications for Africa’s economic growth and broader development. From wide-ranging e-government solutions, through the ubiquitous mobile money services, to drone blood and medical equipment deliveries, technology is opening up uncharted avenues for solving some of the continent’s most persistent issues.
Beyond driving innovation, the digital revolution is also shaking up politics and the way that governments and society interact. As a young and increasingly interconnected population clamours for improved livelihoods and opportunities, technology will both generate greater accountability and be a driver of volatility in Africa’s political systems. Our African Year in 2020 report explores how digital technology and the 4IR will shape risk and opportunity across the continent in the year ahead.