UAE Commits US$500 Million to Support Africa’s Digitization Efforts
Tue, April 20, 2021

UAE Commits US$500 Million to Support Africa’s Digitization Efforts

The United Arab Emirates recently announced a new initiative called Consortium for Africa to help fulfill its vision of a connected and “turbocharged” Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent / Photo by: Chris Down via Wikimedia Commons

 

The United Arab Emirates recently announced a new initiative called Consortium for Africa to help fulfill its vision of a connected and “turbocharged” Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. In connection with this, the country offered a US$500 million investment, reported UAE new provider Gulf News.

 

Digitization and Youth

Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, minister of state for International Cooperation and director-general of the Expo 2020 Office, said that the two immediate priorities of the Consortium are the youth and digitization. She added that the UAE initiative will be a “long-term building of human capital” and that it will align the country’s private sector and government in its commitment to support the digitization efforts of Africa.

Al Hashemy added that the UAE acts more than just a provider of concessionary loans or a donor to Africa because it also recognizes that the real value lies in boosting human capital. This is why they are committed in the UAE to deliver the “apparatus” to help entrepreneurs lead, startups thrive, and for the young people in Africa to look forward to a future with optimism.

The Minister went on that the focus of their initiative is to ensure that the talented young populations will not be overwhelmed by the future opportunities but to embrace them. The Consortium will ensure an impactful, adaptive, and more consolidated support in the future. The UAE has also been recognized as the second-largest investor country in Africa in 2016, supporting various projects such as hospitals, clinics, schools, ports, roads, and bridges.

“We have heard your call,” Al Hashemy said, referring to Africa. UAE is the first Gulf state to join the African Union in 2011 as an observer member. Their partnership was made to enhance the cooperation ties of Africa and the Gulf states and the Arab nation as a whole. The African Union is comprised of 55 member states located in the continent of Africa.

Al Hashemy also mentioned about the first participation of the AU at the World Expo 2020 that will be hosted in Dubai. The expo will showcase the continent’s many achievements and rich history. Visitors from different countries are expected to see borderless and colorful space, where they can also view the vast potential of Africa as well as its optimism in the future. The infrastructure for Expo 2020 Dubai has already been completed, including the stations that will supply power to the site. The UAE believes that the expo will help showcase their country to the rest of the world via global media.

Embracing digitization will help improve the country’s productivity, which is a stimulus to the economy's needs. If the productivity of Africa will be increased, the standards of living and wages will also follow / Photo by: antonynjoro via Pixabay

 

Share of African Population Using the Internet

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shared the number of individuals who have access to the internet in 2016. The internet can be used via mobile phones, games machines, digital TV, personal digital assistant, and computer. The data is as follows: South Africa (54.00%), Middle East and North Africa (48.33%), Middle East and North Africa (excluding high income 43.10%), Middle East and North Africa (IDA & IBRD 42.87%), Sub-Saharan Africa (IDA & IBRD 19.85%), Sub-Saharan Africa (19.85), Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding high income 19.85%), and Central African Republic (4.00%).

In 2017, there were 30.25 million internet users in South Africa, 885,770 in Botswana, 3.75 million in Angola, 4.89 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 7.22 million in Tanzania, 1.28 million in Libya, 17.44 million in Algeria, and 2 million in Nigeria, among other nations in the continent.

Meanwhile, countries with the highest number of internet users by in 2017 included India (391.26 million users), China (756.37 million), Russia (109.44 million), Brazil (126.4 million), United States (245.43 million), Turkey (52.23 million), France (52.31 million), United Kingdom (62.35 million), Philippines (57.34 million), and Indonesia (85.25 million).

For its part, there are now 9.52 million active internet users in UAE and it is equivalent to 99.06% internet penetration. The data is based on the Dubai-based web and development company Global Media Insight. There are also 9.52 million active social media accounts in UAE and the internet traffic comes from these devices: smartphones (61%), desktops (36%), and tablets (3%). An average person in the UAE spends about seven hours online. The top five websites are Google.com, YouTube, Facebook, Google.ae, and Instagram.

Multinational conglomerate company Siemens, which focuses on the areas of automation, digitalization, and electrification, also shared in its African Digitalization Maturity Report in 2017 that South Africa emerged as the nation with the highest potential to realize digital maturity. It was followed by Kenya, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The report also recognized the efforts of the government of Kenya in improving their country’s regulatory environment for Information, Communications, and Technology.

It also said that although there were several challenges in the ICT policy environment of South Africa and the service delivery issues faced by their government, the private sector has stepped in to fill the gap. For instance, retailers, telecoms, and banks have encouraged the use of technology.

African Countries DMA Score

Siemens has also computed the DMA (Digital Maturity Assessment) scores of several African countries to assess their readiness to capitalize on digitalization. The DMA score considers the following: economic maturity, environment, infrastructure, and skills and digital literacy. Focusing on the four countries with the highest DMA scores, the report highlighted that the economic maturity of Ethiopia is 27, Kenya 55, Nigeria 46, and South Africa 60. Since their score is still below 100, they are far off the benchmark for economic maturity. As for digital literacy that reflects the human capital endowment of the country, their scores are as follows: Ethiopia (26), Kenya (33), Nigeria (18), and South Africa (43.) Kenya scored high in digital literacy and training because many Kenyan schools have provided internet access to their students.

Embracing digitization will help improve the country’s productivity, which is a stimulus to the economy's needs. If the productivity of Africa will be increased, the standards of living and wages will also follow. Digital training and upskilling will help increase productivity and the UAE initiative is a great help not only to overcome adoption barriers but to also broaden the country’s digital tools.