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Investing in Africa now is the key to recovery

21 Jan 2021Digital Society
4 minute read

Building on comments made at the Africa Investment Conference, hosted by the UK Department for International Trade, Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group’s CEO explores how international partnerships and investing in Africa can help developing nations rebuild better.

Regardless of race, culture or status, people around the world are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever the critical connectivity and services that telecom and technology companies like Vodacom provide are making a real difference to society.

I am immensely proud of how our teams across the African continent have worked, even when there have been challenges, to ensure communities stay connected, health and social services are supported, education is accessible, and businesses can continue to operate through the crisis.  

Now is the time for the UK and the international community to help drive recovery and growth across our continent through the partnership between international governments, businesses, civil society organisations and their counterparts in African countries.

Connecting more Africans

In 2020 during the pandemic Vodacom accelerated investment in our networks to meet an almost 50% rise in demand, increasing our reach and bringing connectivity to new areas across Africa.

Vodacom is investing over R320 million (€16.6 million) to accelerate connectivity in rural KwaZulu-Natal

Vodacom is investing over R320 million (€16.6 million) to accelerate connectivity in rural KwaZulu-Natal

However, many communities still lack mobile internet access, digital skills and basic digital services and resources. This dependence on connectivity for work and home shone a spotlight on widening inequalities and vulnerabilities across our African markets. We are working closely with governments and partner organisations to change that, but international investment is critical to closing the digital divide.

Supporting health services

The pandemic – and periods of lockdown – have increased pressure on health services across Africa and have heightened the pressing need for technology that can speed up the way citizens can access treatment. We are working with health authorities and partners to offer support where we can.

The technology investments Vodacom and others are making now will be vital beyond the pandemic to bring access to healthcare services closer to patients, to improve the quality of care delivered and to widen the reach of specialist medical services across the continent.

Enabling access to education

Around half of the children in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access remote learning facilities during periods of lockdown because they live in areas without mobile network connectivity.

Vodacom’s eSchool platform reached over 1m users during the pandemic

Vodacom’s eSchool platform reached over 1m users during the pandemic

We have been working with governments and other partners, such as Microsoft, to prioritise the provision of digital education services and to enable young people to access schooling.

Beyond the lockdown, students who can access digital educational materials will be at an advantage. To address that inequality more children must be able to access products like Vodacom eSchool.

Keeping economies going

Micro, small and medium sized enterprises are at the heart of African economies, contributing up to 40% of GDP and accounting for seven out of 10 jobs. These businesses must survive especially when sub-Saharan Africa is facing its first recession in 25 years.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for change in the way that governments, industry and other organisations work together to serve society. We must continue this collaborative approach to rebuild a future that is fair, inclusive and sustainable.

We need more international partnerships

As the British Prime Minister said opening the Africa Investment conference, African countries and their aid partners need to invest in digital to build back better and greener after this crisis. 

We know from the past that international partnerships can make a real difference to Africa.  M-Pesa originated from a partnership between Vodafone, Safaricom and the UK Department for International Development and has grown to become Africa’s leading payments platform with 41.5m active users.

Initiatives such as the African Union Commission digital transformation strategy and the UN Digital Cooperation Roadmap provide sensible frameworks for how this could progress. Now is the time to work together on the execution.

A future for African countries in which digital services drive more inclusive, sustainable, and fairer societies is achievable, but the road ahead is long and challenging. The need is greater than ever for the international community to invest in Africa’s digital future.

Learn more about Vodafone: an African technology leader.

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