Digitalization could facilitate faster development of Africa
Published: Oct 10, 2021 05:40 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

US internet company Google said it plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to ensure local access to faster internet, and the firm pledged it will back startups to support the continent's digital transformation.

Speeding up the development of internet facilities in Africa will obviously help bridge the world's digital gap. Yet some US media outlets recently claimed that Chinese telecom networks are "occupying Africa's cyberspace at an unprecedented speed, exerting political influence."

Why do some US media and politicians still look at China-Africa cooperation in the internet field with such bias? The core of their anxiety is that, compared with advancing China-Africa cooperation, the US has done too little to promote modernization of Africa.

Africa's development prospects have never been the real concern of the US. After World War II, the US began to pay attention to Africa because of the need to compete with the Soviet Union in order to become the only global superpower.

Now the US is vilifying the win-win China-Africa cooperation. China-Africa cooperation is generating tangible benefits for local people. The achievements made are not only reflected in tangible infrastructure such as dams, power grids and drainage systems, but also in substantial improvements in education and sanitation conditions. Many surveys conducted by US institutions in Africa show that China has become the most popular country among African people.

Digital development has become a precious opportunity for Africa. Digital transformation is leading a new economic revolution, and economic development and growth can only be achieved by following the trend of digital development. Also, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has made mankind more dependent on technology than ever before, and the development of the digital economy has ushered in a rare opportunity. In this context, Africa's digital development should be taken seriously, and the digital gap between Africa and the developed countries should be narrowed.

In the context of global development, more emphasis is placed on how to promote digital connectivity in developing countries. According to the review published by the WTO-led Aid-for-Trade Initiative, the demand for telecommunications infrastructure in the developing countries is constantly rising, and they all expressed to varying degrees their concerns about not being able to be embedded in the global value chain. This requires the support of the international community, and China is actually making efforts in this field.

As one of the fastest-growing continents in the world, Africa has a stronger demand for digitalization. According to a report by the Africa Data Centre Association, Africa needs 1,000 MW of new facility capacity, or about 700 new datacenter facilities. For Africa, seizing the opportunities of digital development needs long-term vision and political wisdom.

The author is deputy director of Hongqiao Economic Forum Research Center under the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.