The Ministers in charge of digital economy mandate in the West African region, need to collaborate to tackle the challenges affecting the mandate given them by their Governments, if they must achieve digital technology transformation.
That was the suggested by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy of Nigeria, Prof Isa Pantami who was the host of the maiden edition of the digital economic regional conference (DERC). a convergence of all the ministers of digital economy in the sub-region.
The conference, was designed to provide opportunity for countries in the sub-region to discuss the growth and development of their various digital economic sectors including the gains, challenges, and opportunities, and allow for peer review to identify key performance metrics that can form the foundation for the region’s equivalent of the Digital Economy and Society Index utilised by countries in the European region.
Welcoming his guests, Pantami disclosed that the conference has become imperative because digital inclusion cannot be achieved without collaboration.
According to him, no country can do it alone stating, “our strength is in our collaboration and the unity we forged among ourselves, ” and that digital technologies are no respecter of borders, an axiom the sub-region can leverage for brainstorming and idea sharing.
The Nigerian Minister noted that the sub-region and the continent, in general, lost out in the first to third industrial revolutions which accounted for the continent’s developing and under-developed status.
“The world economy is growing. Countries that prioritise the fourth industrial revolution are the leading economies. And if you look at all these countries that are doing well economically, you will discover they prioritised the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
He called on the Ministers to be proactive because “that is the only key to achieving a very successful digital economy’’, noting that it is only in the Fourth Industrial Revolution that some African countries are actively involved.
He observed that the African population is very important, particularly considering its potentials stressing that “we will be able to achieve a lot, particularly by being very proactive in our approach to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
In his remark, the World Bank Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri stated that Nigeria has done so far in the area of broadband penetration and internet connectivity; the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy of the country (NDEPS), is on course.
Chaudhuri said: “The minister also did talk about broadband penetration. It is really making sure that no one is left behind so if you are talking about poor families, some place in the northern states, in a remote rural area, I think the key is, how do we make sure that every person, no matter where they are in Nigeria has that same access to the digital economy.
“Nigeria’s young population has tremendous potential but you have to ensure that there is equal access. In places like Lagos, Abuja there is a lot of dynamism already but what the Minister has said is getting that access out to the rural areas so that every child, every young person has that access.
“That is going to be key. And I think the telecom sector, the digitally enabled sector has been quite key to Nigeria’s resilience in the last two to three years,” he said.
He added that there was great potential in Nigeria’s digital economy but emphasised the need for more reforms going forward.
“One, is for states to make it easy for private firms to lay the fibers, to actually invest and the second is digital skills which is making sure that young children from early stage, especially the girl child have access to digital skills so that they can be able to contribute to areas of growth going forward.
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