by Loise Tamalgo, Vice-President for Sub-Sahara Africa Public Relations of Huawei Northern Africa
15 months ago, no one could have guessed that such a tragic health and economic crisis was looming. In a matter of months, the world was turned upside down, and innovation has become the one hopeful, promising solution to counter a complete decline of our societies. The African continent, due to its fragile economies and lack of infrastructure, had to exercise caution and before all, display technological genius and an entrepreneurial mindset.
Yet, although all expected the consequences of the pandemic in Africa to be dramatic, both from a sanitary and economic standpoint, the continent has demonstrated an unprecedented resilience. It has been able to grasp the moment to reinvent itself and has shown readiness to dive into the fourth industrial revolution.
Africa has digitalized at a pace never matched before, with more than 453 million of internet users according to the GlobalWebIndex’s data and a new generation impressively creative and aware of the opportunities brought by NTICs. This innovative youth is the solution to the African development; a fact private businesses must recognize to increase their investments in that domain. As the start-up and tech culture deepens on the continent, the explosion of tech hubs across Africa has shown no signs of slowing down over the past months: their number grew by nearly 50% over the past year (Quartz Africa). Africa needs to understand that welcoming and supporting this boom will reinvigorate its technical and inclusive capacities, draw micro, small and medium businesses out of a threatening failure. Our company Huawei has been, since 1997, enthusiastic about engaging with African talents and embarking with the whole society on a technological revolution.
In that regard, the pandemic has been a digital accelerator as it has guided our daily decisions about the way we live, work, and do business. It has brought new ways of communicating and exchanging to the fore, with new social tools such as video-conferencing or social applications. We are comforted in our vision that the digital is the solution, as we have for instance noticed a 40% increase of the use of videoconferencing technologies in Egypt since Covid-related measures have been implemented. Applied to all social sectors, families, private companies, public institutions and the administration, this type of connectivity is our most powerful tool to build an intelligent society.
Although we need to be optimistic, according to the IMF, Africa needs 1200 billion USD for its economy to regain strength and speed in the three coming years. As 50 million of Africans are threatened to be thrown into extreme poverty according to Devex, and as the health budgets of most African countries remain low, it is urgent for both public and private actors to cooperate and kick off a virtuous cycle mechanism based on a digital upgrade. For Huawei, creating an ecosystem of innovation can only occur among a broader ecosystem of collaborators working on an equal footing. Thus, in September 2020, we have launched our remote consultation system in partnership with the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kinshasa ad the Stomatology Hospital of the University of Wuhan in China. This significant advance in telemedicine is expected to be the first step towards a more resourceful health environment on the continent, leading the way to other innovative impulses that will gradually empower African societies. The digital world is one that Africa wants to delve into with all its resources and talents, and we will be there to support that transition.