Digital BRI helps Africa to enhance technology infrastructure to propel socio-economic development
  ·  2023-10-26  ·   Source: ChinAfrica


A 5G technology supported robot interacts with participants during the launching ceremony of pre-commercial 5G services trial in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 9 May 2022. Ethiopia's state-owned Ethio-Telecom launched the trial in partnership with Chinese telecom giant Huawei (XINHUA) 

The digital BRI has given concrete expression to the abiding vision of African governments to enhance digital connectivity on the continent. Digital technology infrastructure through the digital BRI can help African countries achieve the goal of universal access, participate in the global digital economy, drive the growth of small and medium enterprises in the digital space, improve productivity and services in various sectors (including agriculture and finance), enhance the provision of healthcare, disaster management, logistics and promote e-commerce.  

As for the e-commerce, it is not only helping the African economies to move toward digitalisation, but also increasing consumption in Africa by enabling African manufacturers to tap the Chinese market. It will also allow Chinese consumers to buy African goods at a better price and boost African exports to China, thus helping African countries to increase exports. 

Chinese provision of digital infrastructure and solutions such as the Smart City and Safe City initiatives promise bundled solutions to address a wide range of issues from terrorism to crime to e-government gaps. An example is the recently announced Chinese-funded “Smart Burkina” project which consists of the installation of fibre optic network cables to enhance digital connectivity and facilitate e-government as well as the installation of a surveillance system to address security threats and crime amidst a terrorist insurgency in Burkina Faso.  

The provision of digital infrastructure will enable African countries to exploit the opportunities that digital technologies provide to enhance economic growth; for many countries, it also represents an opportunity to diversify their economies away from dependence on resources such as oil and gas. A lack of support from other major donors in the development of critical ICT infrastructure in Africa can be said to have opened the door for China’s taking the leading role through the digital BRI in developing such infrastructure on the continent. 

The author is executive director of the Centre for Nigerian Studies, Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University. 

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