China can help Africa embrace the technical future

By Hisham Abu Bakr Metwally Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/2 22:13:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT



 

How can Africa embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Actually, it's a good opportunity for Africa, whose population is the youngest of all continents.

Africa is projected to have the largest working-age cohort by 2035 , exceeding China and India. There's a real possibility of having well-educated labor with high productivity. Young people find it easier and faster to understand and develop new technologies, and this could change the distribution of world production.

Despite Africa's demographic dividend, the continent's economic outlook is a subject of debate. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the worst performing regions on the continent.

However, the Fourth Industrial Revolution provides a rare opportunity for the continent to achieve an economic take-off. Africa is expected to experience high economic growth over the next decade, with business spending expected to reach $3.5 trillion by 2025, according to a report from Mckinsey Global Institute.

Rather than attempt to catch up with the Third Industrial Revolution, African countries should immediately move to the fourth. It's a lesson that everyone should understand, before it gets too late. The potential is unlimited since mobile devices have connected so many people. For instance, e-commerce is fast emerging as a potential growth sector in South Africa. E-commerce has changed the way many companies and institutions conduct their business in the continent.

Leaders from BRICS countries last month stressed the need for the five emerging economies to cooperate in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. African countries, Egypt included, must work along with the BRICS to expand their economies.

Africa will have to speed up developing its infrastructure, which will serve as a catalyst to unlock development. New technology should be used in smarter ways to leapfrog the current stage of development.

Early schooling will have to be transformed just as the East Asians did, to produce the required skills that can allow people to prosper in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Tertiary education should focus on engineering, science and technical subjects. Africa needs skilled engineers to help develop new digital manufacturing industries. African countries must also expand their creative industries.

All these efforts must be included in coherent industrialization strategies. African civil society, business and academic institutions must rewire their outdated pre-digital age modes of thinking and provide new ideas, approaches and policies to tackle the continent's challenges.

China has written its own success stories in many fields like e-commerce, mobile payments and smart cities. It's natural that new partnerships will emerge between Chinese companies and African companies in those areas.

There are a lot of African countries joining the innovation stream - Mauritius, Tunisia, Algeria, Gabon, Egypt, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The market will be the motivation, because a lot of Chinese enterprises aspire to invest overseas, which will lead to a win-win situation.

China has repeatedly demonstrated its full readiness to cooperate with and open up to Africa, just like brothers. African leaders must recognize this historic opportunity and develop first from the inside. They must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting Africans' lives and reshaping Africa's economic, social, cultural and human environments. They need to shape a future that works for all by putting people first and empowering them.

The author is the first economist researcher at the Central Department for Export & Import Policy under the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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