Digital revolution underway in Africa, claims new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Africa is in the midst of a digital revolution with growing affordability, accessibility and untapped demand driving advances across the continent, according to a new PwC report released this week.

The report – ‘Disrupting Africa: Riding the wave of the digital revolution’ – highlights a number of ways in which businesses, disruptors and policymakers can embrace new technology, while providing the infrastructure and capacity needed to ensure digital disruption is genuinely transformational in realising the continent’s economic potential.

PwC also notes that making products and services easier to access will unlock technology for Africa’s ‘global emerging middle’ market (characterised as "sitting just below the conventional middle class in income terms, but with aspirations for quality, high performing products that are in sync with higher segments") of more than two billion consumers.

PwC estimates that this emerging middle market will make up $6 trillion of the global market by 2021.

However, although the report states that digital disruption should support economic growth in Africa, this assertion comes with a caveat: that the reach and benefits of growth need to be more evenly spread across the continent.

“Technological disruption is transforming markets and societies across Africa in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago,” said Joel Segal, chair of PwC’s Africa business group. “This opens up huge and largely untapped commercial potential for domestic and international businesses. From the demographic dividend of a young and rapidly expanding population, to the fastest growing middle class of any continent – Africa has the potential to become a new powerhouse of production and consumption in the twenty first century, just as Asia was able to do in the late twentieth century.”

Moreover, asserts the report, businesses and policymakers can utilise technological advances to break down physical barriers, improving local knowledge, infrastructure and access remote communities. One example of this is the development of surveyor drones to help clients monitor infrastructure, manage construction sites and carry out insurance assessments.

“By broadening their outlook, businesses can dramatically increase their pool of potential customers, as well as giving a large proportion of Africa’s population access to products and services that would have been beyond their reach before," concludes Mr Segal.

Report: Disrupting Africa: Riding the wave of the digital revolution

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