Africa’s solarized digitalization agenda in the time of coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity for the digitalization and sustainable development of African economies.
The seventh session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development convened earlier this month with the theme “Building forward better: Towards a resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063” and to promote the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, pointed out that developing a just, fair economic model that embraces green and renewable energy, resilient infrastructure, and digitalization — while protecting natural resources by broadening partnerships for science, technology and innovation — could unleash the region’s green potential and fuel economic transformation. UNECA’s digital agendaAccording to a paper titled “Harnessing Emerging Technologies: the cases of Artificial Intelligence and Nanotechnology,” which was provided by Victor Konde — scientific affairs officer at the United Nations: “The global pandemic caused by [COVID-19] has highlighted the importance of technology and innovation in developed countries. […] Digital technologies have transformed how people work, interact and access services.” It also highlights the “interest in the role of emerging technologies in driving Africa’s transformation” and in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.As the document states, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, or UNECA, conducted profound policy research and “provided policy advice to member States on several emerging technologies, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.” The paper continues:“The digital economy is unpinned by several key technologies, some of which include artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, and augmented reality. However, as UNCTAD noted, China and United States currently own 75% of patents on blockchain, account for half of global spending on IoT and their firms accounts for three quarters of the global market of commercial cloud computing. As a result, China and the United States account for 90% of the 70 largest digital platforms while Africa and Latin America account for a combined share of about one percent (1%).”The internet and tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, spend billions of dollars in an attempt to get more people online in Africa despite a backlash from governments that are trying to shut down access to these services. At the same time, Vera Songwe, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, pointed out: “Africa could expand its economy by a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars, by capturing just 10% of the speedily growing artificial intelligence (AI) market, set to reach $15.7 trillion by 2030.” Digital currencies in AfricaAfrica is the second-largest continent in the world in terms of both territory and population (roughly 1.3 billion people), and cryptocurrency is in big demand for the following reasons:Countries’ national fiat currencies are vulnerable to double-digit hyperinflation, according to the UN.Africa has a high unbanked population, a high penetration of smartphone use and an increasingly young, migrating population.During 2020, monthly cryptocurrency transfers under $10,000 in value to and from Africa — often traded person-to-person across the 816 million

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