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DEVELOPMENT WITHIN SOUTH AFRICA’S DIGITAL ECONOMY UNDERSCORED AS A SOLUTION TO ECONOMIC GROWTH

Brand South Africa | 6 June 2024


We are at the end of the 6th administration in South Africa’s 30-year-old democracy. Though an infant in comparison to its sister countries across the African continent who’ve gained their independence earlier, South Africa has grown in leaps and bounds to ascend into the realm of the upper echelons of economic prosperity. As a preferred investment destination on the continent, its quest to build a formidable and developed nation is not without bounds. As citizens look forward to ushering in the 7th administration, they wait in anticipation for a government that’ll set a positive tone for the next 30 years and beyond.

 

Chief among some of the challenges is economic development that’ll bring about a remedy for the country’s incremental unemployment rate within this evolving digital era. It is without any shadow of a doubt that the multiple sectors that make up our economy exhibit prospects of exponential growth. The one thing that they all have in common is that they all have some level of dependency on the Information and Communication Technology and Digital sector, and as these sectors continue to progress, they warrant a rise in the development of the Digital sector. The government, business and civil society have come to understand this imminent and inevitable need that South Africa has. Since the first South Africa Investment Conference (SAIC) in 2018, investments in the digital economy have grown exponentially over the past five years. Our country has received commitments of R200 billion ($10,5 billion) in total investments for our country’s telecommunications network by Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Rain and Liquid Telecom.

 

South Africa’s geographic location touches multiple oceans and as such, has traditionally put us at a great advantage of a network of subsea communication cables that connects us to other continents. Furthermore, our country’s high internet penetration rate has attracted investments from international companies that have begun to cement South Africa’s position as a subsea landing hub in the sub-Saharan region and a point of entry for those companies looking to broaden their horizons into the rest of the African continent. A good example of these investors is Google, who’ve made a commitment to collaborate with the government to bridge the 30% digital penetration gap to give more South Africans access to the internet. According to their CEO, Dr. Alistair Mokoena, they estimate that there will be another 300 000 000 users coming online in Africa by 2030 thus the urgency in ensuring that demand is met.

 

Their investment towards the subsea network of cables is expected to add $6.7 billion to South Africa’s GDP and add 180 000 indirect jobs resulting from the infrastructure’s widespread economic impact. On top of that, Google seeks to address data storage through its first ever Google Cloud Region in Africa where cloud region signals will be made available for their partners, society, end users and their customers. This investment is set to add $2 billion to South Africa’s GDP and 40 000 indirect jobs to the economy.

 

Another multinational that has been around for as long as the existence of South Africa’s democracy is Microsoft. The blue-chip organisation is doubling down on its commitment to advance capabilities for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and the youth through a R1,3 billion ($69,6 million) investment. Microsoft’s programmes are designed to build ICT capability so that South Africans can create new ways to address youth unemployment, employability, inequality, sustainability, and global competitiveness in the areas of Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, AI and Machine Learning. These include digital transformation for up to 42 SMMEs and startups, alignment with 18 TVET colleges to enhance the employability of students and the support of up to 20 advanced research and development projects to address the current and future policy needs of the country in cyber security and AI.

 

According to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr. Ebrahim Patel, “The Fund will assist black South Africans in non-tech sectors to harness the power of technology and improve their competitiveness and ability to innovate and expand their operations. It will also act as a bridge to enable young people to get training, certification, and job-placement, so that talented South Africans gain access to the opportunities that arise from an increasingly digitalised world”. Enabling them to harness the potential of rapidly developing technologies through advanced skills.

 

True to their nature, institutions of higher learning have kept their finger on the digital economy’s pulse as well. Quite recently, we’ve seen the University of Johannesburg, through its Johannesburg Business School, join forces with the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) to create an innovative research project to address critical skills development. Their research objectives include Virtual Reality (VR), business intelligence and skills forecasting among others to upskill young people to make a meaningful contribution in our digital sector.

 

These interventions prove yet again that the development of our country’s digital ecosystem will make a significant contribution to the growth of our economy in all aspects. Let us continue to educate and empower ourselves with the relevant knowledge and skills that’ll lock our spot at the helm of economic prosperity in Africa.


‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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