New opportunities have emerged for both African companies and foreign investors in the wake of the continent’s developing contactless economy.
Africa’s emerging contactless economy is growing rapidly in the Covid-era; creating new growth opportunities that African and foreign companies and investors can capitalise on. This was the main takeaway from comments made by industry experts during Wednesday’s Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa 2021 in Dubai.
The rise in Africa’s rate of contactless adoption comes in tandem with a range of various initiatives that are currently underway across the region. For example, Emirate NBD has recently run their ‘Get Together. Go Contactless’ campaign, which reportedly caused the rate of contactless transactions to soar by 67%.
Likewise, the International Trade Centre recently cited the development of a comprehensive digital infrastructure as one of the main drivers of growth within Africa.
Centred around the theme ‘Transformation Through Trade’, the two-day Global Business Forum is being held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai, under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
A session titled ‘Tech-celebration: The Contactless Economy’ brought together Lacina Koné, Director General of the Smart Africa Secretariat from Côte d’Ivoire; and Innocent Muhizi, CEO of the Rwanda Information Society Authority; who each shared their thoughts on what this new turn towards payment technology could mean for businesses and investors in Africa.
“When we talk about technology in the developed world, we talk about it disruption, about new players threatening the field,” Moderator Goolam Ballim noted. “This is in contrast to what we see in Africa, where technology is seen as more developmental than disruptive. It allows new players to enter into the market – a market that is often uncharted.”
Lacina Koné spoke about Smart Africa’s vision to transform Africa into a single digital market by 2030. “The strategy consists of five main points: putting ICT at the heart of national development plans; improving access to ICT especially for banks; ensuring transparency, accountability, and openness through ICT; putting the private sector first in the ecosystem; and using ICT to promote sustainable development,” he said.
“Looking at the registered mobile money market share, Africa owns 50%, we also own 70% of mobile money transactions globally. Africa by nature is a mobile continent and we are leading the world in that sector,” Koné added. “Intertrade in Africa is only around 18%. The African Continental Free Trade Area aims to promote more integration and Smart Africa is working to facilitate that with smart identity and e-payment solutions.”
For his part, Innocent Muhizi underlined the importance of digital solutions noting that: “If another pandemic hits, we have no resort but digital. You have to automate certain services. For example, during the pandemic alone, mobile transactions grew by 400%.”
Muhizi went on to list three important factors to focus on to promote digital technologies: Affordable connectivity, affordable devices, and digital skills. “You have to offer incentives to digital service providers. These include bringing down the cost of transactions, creating an enabling environment for service providers, and upgrading some of the services.”