Africa’s solarized digitalization agenda in the time of coronavirus


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The seventh session of the Africa Regional Discussion board on Sustainable Improvement convened earlier this month with the theme “Constructing ahead higher: In the direction of a resilient and inexperienced Africa to realize the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063” and to advertise the financial, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable growth.

Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, pointed out that creating a simply, truthful financial mannequin that embraces inexperienced and renewable power, resilient infrastructure, and digitalization — whereas defending pure assets by broadening partnerships for science, know-how and innovation — might unleash the area’s inexperienced potential and gasoline financial transformation.

UNECA’s digital agenda

In keeping with a paper titled “Harnessing Rising Applied sciences: the circumstances of Synthetic Intelligence and Nanotechnology,” which was supplied by Victor Konde — scientific affairs officer on the United Nations: “The worldwide pandemic brought on by [COVID-19] has highlighted the significance of know-how and innovation in developed international locations. […] Digital applied sciences have reworked how folks work, work together and entry companies.” It additionally highlights the “curiosity within the function of rising applied sciences in driving Africa’s transformation” and in attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Because the doc states, the United Nations Financial Fee for Africa, or UNECA, carried out profound coverage analysis and “supplied coverage recommendation to member States on a number of rising applied sciences, similar to blockchain, synthetic intelligence and nanotechnology.” The paper continues:

“The digital economic system is unpinned by a number of key applied sciences, a few of which embrace synthetic intelligence (AI), cloud computing, blockchain, Web of Issues (IoT), digital actuality, and augmented actuality. Nevertheless, as UNCTAD famous, China and United States at present personal 75% of patents on blockchain, account for half of world spending on IoT and their corporations accounts for 3 quarters of the worldwide market of economic cloud computing. Because of this, China and the USA account for 90% of the 70 largest digital platforms whereas Africa and Latin America account for a mixed share of about one p.c (1%).”

The web and tech giants, similar to Google and Fb, spend billions of {dollars} in an try and get extra folks on-line in Africa regardless of a backlash from governments which can be attempting to close down entry to those companies. On the identical time, Vera Songwe, UN under-secretary-general and government secretary of the Financial Fee for Africa, pointed out:

“Africa might develop its economic system by a staggering $1.5 trillion {dollars}, by capturing simply 10% of the speedily rising synthetic intelligence (AI) market, set to succeed in $15.7 trillion by 2030.”

Digital currencies in Africa

Africa is the second-largest continent on the planet by way of each territory and inhabitants (roughly 1.3 billion people), and cryptocurrency is in huge demand for the next causes:

  • Nations’ nationwide fiat currencies are susceptible to double-digit hyperinflation, based on the UN.
  • Africa has a excessive unbanked inhabitants, a excessive penetration of smartphone use and an more and more younger, migrating inhabitants.

Throughout 2020, month-to-month cryptocurrency transfers beneath $10,000 in worth to and from Africa — typically traded person-to-person throughout the 816 million cellular phones in Sub-Saharan Africa alone — skyrocketed 55%, “reaching a peak of $316 million in June.” They traded with a big margin that reached up to 70% because of the small variety of cryptocurrency retailers. Particular person residents and small companies situated in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya accounted for many of this buying and selling exercise.

China is the largest buying and selling accomplice of many African international locations. It has been investing ($45 billion in 2019, based on the United Nations Convention on Commerce and Improvement) for the reason that mid-2000s into Africa’s know-how, communications and finance infrastructure, and blockchain know-how training. Already, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda and Eswatini have been researching central financial institution digital currencies, or CBDCs. As a BRICS nation, South Africa is piloting one as a part of Russia’s multinational digital currency initiative that will probably be linked with China’s cellular Digital Foreign money Digital Cost system supported by its Blockchain-based Service Community.

Associated: Not like before: Digital currencies debut amid COVID-19

Nigeria is the world’s second-largest BTC market

In its “Nigeria Digital Economic system Diagnostic Report” of 2019, the World Financial institution laid out the nation’s digital economic system potential. Solely a 12 months later, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria surpassed China and at present ranks second in the world in Bitcoin (BTC) buying and selling, regardless that it lacks the regulatory framework to help the digital asset enterprise exercise.

Bitcoin buying and selling gives a supply of revenue for an growing variety of unemployed younger folks along with a way of sending and receiving cross-border funds. For instance, BTC funded the 2020 #EndSARS protests against police brutality, which had been carried out by younger folks nationwide and unfold past Nigerian borders, parallel to solidarity protests in several elements of the world.

Lately, the Central Financial institution of Nigeria banned banks from servicing crypto exchanges and is incentivizing residents till Might 8 to make use of licensed worldwide cash switch operators for cross-border funds. Nigeria’s securities regulator adopted swimsuit by suspending its planned regulatory framework for digital belongings. This ban is predicted to be in place until a well-devised concrete regulatory framework for the $1.8 trillion cryptocurrency market is developed, maybe one that comes with the Nigerian Expertise Trade Group’s core coverage suggestions of instituting Know Your Buyer, Anti-Cash Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism rules. Because the chairman of the Financial and Monetary Crimes Fee, Abdulrasheed Bawa, explained:

“We’re going to digitalise our processes and we’re going to create a brand new full-pledged directorate of intelligence to allow us collect intelligence so that we’ll be proactive in our struggle in opposition to financial and monetary crimes and by so doing we will even present the federal government with needed high quality recommendation that may result in good governance.”

Associated: South African president steps down as banks embrace blockchain technology

The photo voltaic power potential of Africa

Africa has ample power resources, together with photo voltaic power, because it receives extra hours of brilliant sunshine throughout the course of the 12 months than some other continent. However it lacks dependable entry to trendy power, which is required for digitalization.

The continent is determined to green-energize and solarize its digitalization, as it’s most susceptible to the impacts of local weather change, regardless that it contributes minimally to CO2 emissions. Excluding Eritrea and Libya, African international locations have ratified the Paris Settlement with formidable nationally decided contributions.

In keeping with forecasts by the Worldwide Renewable Vitality Company, “With the precise insurance policies, regulation, governance and entry to monetary markets, sub-Saharan Africa might meet as much as 67 per cent of its power wants [from renewables] by 2030.” And as identified by Songwe, it may “present entry to power to over 70 per cent of Africans who’re with out entry at present.”

Egypt is leading regional efforts to transition to inexperienced/photo voltaic power, with the continent experiencing a surge of progress in new photo voltaic installations, primarily driven by 9 international locations. In a first-of-its-kind undertaking, Egypt not too long ago entered right into a three way partnership with a Chinese language firm to domestically manufacture sand-to-cell photovoltaic photo voltaic panels, with China having ramped up its abroad inexperienced funding to 57% beneath the Belt and Highway Initiative, based on analysis from the Worldwide Institute of Inexperienced Finance.


The nationwide lockdowns and worldwide journey bans imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated inexperienced digitalization efforts throughout African markets, which have promoted democracy and cryptocurrencies and damaged down geographic limitations to collaboration and distribution. Nigerian songwriter and singer Burna Boy, along with his music, and Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, along with his work, conquered the world throughout 2020.

Accordingly, the UN has devoted the entire 12 months of 2021 to the artistic economic system, because it performs a important function in selling sustainable growth for a inexperienced restoration from the COVID-19 pandemic. A sustainable inexperienced restoration plan necessitates understanding the hyperlinks between local weather change, well being and inequality, and it requires implementing formidable local weather change insurance policies that align with the Paris Settlement. Extra vital than ever, these targets present a important framework for a inexperienced COVID-19 restoration. The 12 artwork reveals exhibited on the seventh session of the Africa Regional Discussion board on Sustainable Improvement convention mirrored these themes.

The views, ideas and opinions expressed listed below are the creator’s alone and don’t essentially mirror or characterize the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Quotes on this article taken from beforehand revealed sources have been calmly edited.

Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA, is a global tax lawyer and authorized public accountant who often writes about tax, authorized and accounting points for Tax Notes, Bloomberg BNA, different publications and the OECD.