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Africa’s tech future and economic force hinges on shared value

There is no greater barrier to economic growth in Africa than the lack of connectivity and affordable access to broadband for all.

This is according to Tiekie Barnard, CEO and Founder of Shift Impact Africa and the Shared Value Africa Initiative.

Speaking at the opening of the annual Africa Shared Value Leadership Summit 2022, organised by the Initiative and GSMA, underway this week in Kigali, Rwanda, Barnard said: “We cannot expect economic growth if we do not educate, empower and equip our people - especially our women and youth - with the necessary information that will empower them to make more informed decisions. So technology, connectivity and affordable access can be the enabler and game-changer. Africa has the ability to overcome all our challenges. We have a youth dividend unlike any other continent, so we can accomplish success through collaboration, strong ecosystems, alliances, associations and partnerships to unite this beautiful continent of ours.”

Barnard added that two of the biggest challenges of our time are food insecurity and the huge gender equality deficit.

“But in spite of these challenges, we, as shared value advocates, believe that Africa is where we are building the global future. So creating shared value is about profitability, it’s about sustainability and it’s about creating a more equal society for all. Shared value cannot be achieved without consciously and intentionally addressing our societal and environmental impact - and the challenges as organisations, governments and civil society.”

Shared value and technology

Professor Mark Kramer, economist and senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School, and Co-Creator of the Shared Value Concept, said, “I am particularly excited about the conference this year because of the partnership with GSMA, and the ability to link shared value with ICT, and mobile phones and internet access. Nearly three billion people around the world still lack access to mobile phones and the internet, and yet we’ve seen time and again how essential that access is to social and economic progress.”

Kramer said one only need think of M-Pesa and what it has done to expand the economies of different nations within Africa, and to enable people – however remote they may be – to safely save money for their future.

“Or we think of Discovery Insurance based out of South Africa that gives each of its members a free Apple watch and then through that connectivity is able to monitor and reward them for their exercise sessions - which leads people to exercise more, which actually leads to better health outcomes.”

“We can see that shared value, mobile phones and the internet are deeply connected,” said Kramer. And I believe that is one of the things that give Africa such an important edge in the future.

He added that a great deal has changed in Africa over the past 20 years. The number of children in primary school has doubled, the number of maternal and new-born deaths has dropped by half, governments have improved in many nations across the continent, and the Africa Union’s fight against corruption has made a difference. But of course, there are many problems that remain."

“Yet the energy, the youthfulness, the creativity of Africa, I believe, will make Africa into one of the leading economic forces in the world, for the future. And what that’s really about is innovation.”

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