Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has said the on-going economic crisis sweeping through the world must be a wake up call to African countries to adopt a technological approach to development, especially as the continent seeks to rebuild and rise.
Addressing a high-level African Union-backed “BOMA” event (www.africaboma.com), the Veep cautioned against focusing on the short-term symptoms of the current crisis and forgetting the structural issues that the worst-hit countries are confronted, which are mostly to do with the lack of competitiveness of their economies. A situation only technological advancement can address sustainably.
The Boma forum brought together global political and business leaders to deliberate on the progress of Africa towards Agenda 2063, the AU’s timetable for transforming Africa into a global economic force.
Dr Bawumia said the twin factors influencing the global economic crisis – the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Ukraine conflict – have exposed gaps in the world’s economic and political architecture, which will affect Africa’s quest for growth, if the continent does not act decisively to build technological industries that are more resilient to global economic shocks. It is clear that countries that depend mostly on primary industries suffer harsher consequences when the global economy takes a nosedive than those that have diversified their economies through higher technology inputs.
“The challenges that have beset the global economy may have been fuelled by temporary crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict. But these challenges are still a wakeup call to Africa that there are deep structural gaps in the global economic and political architecture that can frustrate its rise, unless serious concerted efforts are made to plug them,” Dr. Bawumia told the forum on Friday.
Plugging the structural gap, Dr. Bawumia observed, is for the African continent to adopt the emerging data-driven, technological approaches to development, which would help create the right structure for African businesses and SMEs and connect them from isolation, to the world of business.
Urging fellow African countries on, Dr. Bawumia noted that Ghana has chosen to take a path to economic development marked by increasing technological, especially digital, content in its development programs.
Responding to Meta’s (corporate parent of Facebook) President for Global Affairs and former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Sir Nick Clegg, Dr. Bawumia conceded to certain ongoing challenges to optimally harness data, talent and improved regulations to advance the course of technological advancement in Ghana and Africa. But he insisted that these matters are being given the necessary attention. Elaborating on the theme, he added, “if the massive shifts currently underway, such as the fast emergence of a new type of internet, are to benefit, rather than further marginalize Africa, the continent must make the right investments now.”
He continued: “we are very mindful of these potential pitfalls and are investing in both the institutions and infrastructure that will enable us to both leapfrog our infrastructure and education system limits and rapidly advance the regulatory capabilities we need to deal with complex challenges like balancing sovereignty and efficiency, as we become a data-driven economy.”
Dr. Bawumia, while acknowledging efforts some African countries are making in adopting technology-driven development, also shared with the forum some specific areas Ghana has invested in, and how they are expected to boost commerce.
“We have successfully developed new identity infrastructure that will transform credit scoring for SMEs, remove the bottlenecks in e-commerce and lay the ground for the modernization of business supportive government services,” he said.
“We have totally transformed the financial technology landscape and reworked our mobile telecom industry to enable us take advantage of the 5G revolution and the internet of things as they gather pace.”
“No one who has followed our policy journey in Ghana can doubt our total commitment to the technological approach to development,” added the Vice President.
In addition to Sir Nicholas Clerg, who is the President of Global Affairs of Meta, owners of popular social media sites Facebook and Instagram, the Forum was also addressed by former US President Clinton, former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and many other dignitaries including the Director General of the World Health Organisation and the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. Also participating were several former and serving African Heads of States, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union (AU), and a number of AU Commissioners.
Reacting to comments by some of these eminent personalities, Dr. Bawumia emphasised the importance of a global mindset shift in technology investments. “The likes of Meta, Google and Amazon must think beyond consumer products and targeted advertising and invest heavily in utility infrastructure on the ground.”
He added, “their ability to connect with their customers beyond Facebook posts and tweets and to impact their lives depend on this deeper integration into industrial and enterprise infrastructure. There are also broader issues of equity.”
“As much as we recognize that some of the evolving technologies are changing how we do business and bringing down barriers, they also provide the opportunity for us to create the fluid structures and soft infrastructure our SMEs and startups, long isolated from global value chains, need to leapfrog and convert these challenges into opportunities in a broader marketplace shaped by AfCFTA.”