“The organizations believe that online marketplaces will create 3 million jobs in the region by 2025, while digital payments continue to boost e-commerce activity more generally.”
The GSMA and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) are urging Central African countries to implement policies that will strengthen their digital infrastructure. The two organizations noted that mobile tech is driving e-commerce and financial inclusion, so countries need to prioritize mobile internet access if they want their citizens to be able to participate.
The report focuses specifically on 11 countries in the Central African region, including Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and Sao Tome & Principe. The GSMA warned that those countries are falling behind with regards to digital transformation, and are investing less in skills and digital infrastructure than other countries around the world, with all 11 appearing in the bottom third on a UN E-commerce index of 152 countries.
To reverse that trend, the GSMA and the ECA advise African governments to collaborate with mobile telecom providers to connect their citizens to the digital economy. The organizations believe that online marketplaces will create 3 million jobs in the region by 2025, while digital payments continue to boost e-commerce activity more generally. The governments can accelerate that process with policies that encourage mobile development, raise digital inclusion, and incentivize collaboration between various digital stakeholders.
As it stands, 42 percent of the people in Central Africa were mobile internet users by the end of 2019, a figure that doubled over the course of the previous decade. The region now has 16 mobile money services that collectively serve close to 50 million registered accounts. Those tools are popular with women and entrepreneurs, who can grow their businesses through social media and other channels. The GSMA and the ECA also suggested that African businesses can use their local knowledge to compete with international giants like Amazon and Alibaba.
“Central Africa is budding with economic potential and e-commerce can accelerate that growth,” said GSMA Head of Sub Sahara Africa Angela Wamola. “We hope [this report] will inspire action from policymakers and stakeholders in the region.”
“If governments act now, Central Africa can be more competitive and collaborative for the benefit and inclusion of all citizens,” added Antonio Pedro, the Director of the ECA’s Sub-regional Office for Central Africa.
The GSMA has previously launched an Innovation Fund to help promote digital inclusion in Africa and Asia. The organization has also reported that a growing number of women in Southeast Asia are gaining access to mobile internet services.