According to Stéphan-Eloïse Gras, consultant and doctor in Information and Communication Sciences, the African economic context makes the continent the laboratory of the digital world of tomorrow.
Stéphan-Eloïse Gras will participate in the debate: “Africa 2.0, the digital revolution” on Saturday October 10 from 4.30 to 6 pm at the conference center of the Friendship stadium in Libreville. Free registration.
The development of digital in Africa seems to have become a globally shared subject. The multiplication of meetings, debates, forums or fairs dedicated to this issue as well as those of innovations, entrepreneurship, etc., testifies to an extraordinary enthusiasm for an issue that does not only light up the continent’s only future. The double explosion, demographic (by 2050, a third of the world population will live in Africa) and digital (we calculate that the contribution of digital to annual African GDP will catch up with that of Taiwan or Sweden in 2025), requires asking a lucid look at present and future needs and uses, and to support this movement in a realistic and concrete way.
First of all, it is important to identify the specificities of the digital economies and cultures that are developing today in Africa, as well as the individuals who promote them. Connectivity issues have been followed by those of services, content and their models, in a digital world dominated by GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and in a region where political, legal or economic institutions are often unstable. On the one hand, there is not “one” Africa: from North to South, from East to West, continental diversity forces us to think of differentiated logics of digital transformation. On the other hand, Africa has little or no old stabilized industrial models that the economy, uses or technological devices would “hack”. Everything is the object of a permanent and necessary invention. From this point of view, “uberization” does not represent a risk as great and violent as in the North. We can therefore expect that the digital boom – its decentralized modes of organization, its economies of scale and its self-managing communities – will unleash Afro-optimistic creativity and forms of innovation.
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Then, the development of this subject in Africa incites to think differently about the digital transformation of the world. The multiple emergency situations – health, agricultural, ecological, political, economic, etc. – aren’t they crossing the continent for several decades concrete opportunities to experience the complexity of the world to come? In other words, isn’t Africa the laboratory of the world of tomorrow? Like digital currencies (M-Pesa), medical tools for accessing diagnosis and care (CardioPad), agricultural price control applications (M-Farm), open and collaborative maps for collecting waste (ArClean), vernacular social networks (Mxit), the development of digital publishing, etc. The solutions imagined and designed by individuals, entrepreneurs, students, researchers, or artists can inspire the rest of the world in the long term.
This entrepreneurial energy that is expressed today in Africa must be supported, valued and accompanied to participate in the invention – even the re-enchantment – of the digital world of tomorrow. If African innovation is to be globalized, it is also a question of Africanizing global innovation to instill an inclusive, sustainable, creative and useful digital vision.