Africa – ready for rich pickings?

May 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

While on the theme of African economic and trade emancipation, it is interesting to consider the detailed analysis and evaluation occurring in regard to African continental readiness for information and communication technologies. One such study is the Transformation Ready or eTransform Africa programme, a joint programme of the African Development Bank and the World Bank, in partnership with the African Union. Bear in mind that the WCO and African Development Bank recently signed a cooperation agreement to enhance the capacity of Customs administrations in Africa. 

The study (Click Here!) is a series of  case studies of certain countries. The aim of the programme as a whole, as set out in the terms of reference, is to:

  • Take stock of emerging uses of ICT across sectors and of good practices in Africa and in other continents, including how ICTs are changing business models in strategic sectors.
  • Identify key ICT applications that have had significant impact in Africa or elsewhere and that have the potential of being scaled up, both from the public and private sectors.
  • Identify binding constraints that impact ICT adoption and scaling-up of effective models, such as the need to develop a regional culture of cyber security, and measures to address these constraints, including in relation to the role of different actors and stakeholders (private, public, development community, civil society, etc).
  • Commission a series of country case studies, to formulate a guide for rolling out and scaling up key applications in Africa, in each of the focus sectors, and thereby to identify opportunities for public/private partnership, as well as identifying areas where intervention can be reduced or eliminated.
  • Develop a common framework for providing support in ICT for development to countries that brings together the operations of the two Bank Groups and their respective departments.

The terms of reference for individual sectors were as follows:

  • Within each sector, identify specific opportunities and challenges in Africa that can possibly be addressed with an increased or better use of ICT. Constraints that are hindering ICT uptake and scale-up will be examined within the context of each sector/industry, including human capacity in IT skills and sustainable business models such as for public private partnerships (PPP). Further, the appropriate role of governments in the provision of priority ICT applications and services will be examined in order to maximize private sector development;
  • Undertake a quick scan of ICT applications in the different sectors and identify a few applications that have had significant impact in Africa or elsewhere and that have the potential of being scaled up. The scan should refer to a matrix of selection criteria on which to select case study countries that are considered ripe for the creation of public/private partnerships. On this basis, specific country case studies will be chosen – two to three per sector — on a representative basis, for deep dive analysis. The selection of case studies should be made in consultation with the partners and the other consultants. A workshop should be organized by the coordinator firm at an early stage in the project to finalise this selection.
  • Analyze and understand the barriers to the greater adoption and mainstreaming of ICTs. Barriers may include, for instance, low purchasing power, illiteracy, infrastructure constraints, lack of regulation, poorly functioning mobile ecosystem, power shortages, political instability etc. Identify cases/examples on how these have been dealt with;
  • Analyze and understand the enabling factors of success, including political economy, policy, institutional, human, financial and operational factors;
  • Consider the option of developing multi-country programs or special facilities that would allow fast-tracking specific programs across countries;
  • Provide guidelines on designing appropriate and sustainable ICT components for sector projects (including building effective public and private partnerships) and on evaluating the impact of these interventions; and
  • Propose a course of action on how to include ICT in policy dialogue and planning with country counterparts on sectoral development goals and priorities. Experiences and best practices from other regions will be drawn upon to define the role of the public sector, bearing in mind that government is increasingly positioned as a lead user of ICTs as well as a regulator of the sector.
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The following article provides a disturbing – some would call it conspiracy theory – on what lies in store for the continent of Africa. Perhaps the colonial days will be viewed as mild should some of the suggested schemes materialise.

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