According to BRICS-Africa partnership report, natural resources are the pillar of Africa’s recent economic growth. In 2011, raw and semi-processed materials accounted for about 80% of African exports, compared with 60% in Brazil, 40% in India and 14% in China. Agricultural commodities, timber, metals and minerals, and hydrocarbons have accounted for approximately 35% of growth in Africa since 2000. BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have continued to expand their trade volumes with Africa. For example, trade between China and Africa increased from $10 billion in 2000 to $190 billion in 2012. These countries are now the continent’s largest trading partners with trade expected to exceed $500 billion by 2015 .
The Information and Communication Technologies market is also experiencing an astounding growth in Africa. ICT products and services accounted for 66 Billion dollars in 2009 for a subset of 10 countries representing approximately 65% of African GDP. IMF estimates that the ICT marketplace could be anywhere from 155 to 180 billion dollars in 4-5 years. This represents a strong local necessity for technology development and related services.
The exponential progress of Technology in general and Information Technology in particular is clearly creating new opportunities to birth Africa’s transformation in the digital era. Coming late to industrialization gives Africa the opportunity to create a model that places a high premium on emerging technologies and be based on a profound understanding of their astounding progress and disruptive impact on global value chains.
Africa can not only to benefit from the order of magnitude of gain in effectiveness and efficiency in sectors such as infrastructure, energy and agriculture, but also to leapfrog certain stages of development directly into decentralized, personalized and digital modes of social services provision (healthcare, education, government services, etc...). Building a strong ICT backbone and strengthening the African digital and technological ecosystems becomes paramount as they are the foundations for 21st century’s knowledge economy and are key enablers of sustainable innovation and new employment opportunities.
Africa’s challenge for the next decade is to build on the African mobile wave, which has birthed mobile banking, to create innovative digital services in other sectors and continue the transformation. This will require creating frameworks for technological R&D and innovation by supporting intergovernmental and government-private sector collaborations.
Africa should also actively work on reducing the cost of access internet, enhancing technology labor skills, creating incubation hubs that support technological innovation and entrepreneurship, and encouraging innovative business models in all priority sectors.
Beyond Africa, connecting the billion African new minds and making them join the global central nervous system will give the world access to untapped intelligence, resilience, creativity, insight, and experiences that have been out of reach up until now.
Watch the below world economic forum 2015 panel discussions on the internet and the digital economy ten years from now. The first panel gathers google chairman Eric Schmidt, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, WEF Managing board Jim Hagemann Snabe and, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella for a discussion on the digital economy in ten years. The second panel gathers nobel Laureate Konstantin Novoselov and Robert Schoelkopf for a discussion on future materials and technologies that insure the advancement of the digital economy.