• Could you share with us how ICT ecosystem development can contribute to the development of the digital infrastructure in Africa?

Start-ups and ICT ecosystems, in Africa like in the rest of the world, need to be able to rely on robust digital infrastructure to operate and develop their activities, as well as steady and relevant legal frameworks.

The benchmark conducted for the African startups and ICT ecosystems Blueprint launched by Smart Africa in 2020 has highlighted in its main lessons the importance of mobile connectivity (4G, and even 5G and soon 6G) including in rural areas. The 27 recommendations of the Blueprint include the following:

  • Expand broadband access and develop relevant use cases and secure Internet;
  • Encourage the development of data centers, cache systems, CDN networks and Internet Exchange Points;

Despite the existing gaps, start-ups and ICT ecosystems in Africa have managed to use the infrastructure they had at hand to achieve their mission. Mobile payment systems that have emerged in East Africa using USSD are a great example of turning a challenge of a lack of smartphone penetration and low connectivity into a large market opportunity for digital inclusion.

 

  • What are the challenges and opportunities the continent is currently facing in order to support the creation of start-ups?

African governments are counting more and more on entrepreneurs to solve the employment challenge. While African entrepreneurs are expected to work for hands in hands with governments to solve this pressing issue, they are faced with the least enabling systemic frameworks in the world, accumulating challenges at every step of their entrepreneurial endeavours, from business permits to standards and regulations, public contracts, insolvency and bankruptcy, tax incentives, intellectual property, digital governance, immigration policies for businesses and others.

In this context of the Coronavirus pandemic, the long-lasting pressing issues of entrepreneurship in the African continent have only gone stronger while African Startups and ICT Ecosystems have mobilized and expressed unprecedented resilience and creativity throughout the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak and the subsequent crisis.

Acknowledging that Member countries want to mobilize further in response and allow for the creation of the best possible conditions for them to thrive through Startup Acts, Smart Africa has pursued the realization and dissemination of the African Startups and ICT Ecosystems Blueprint, under the leadership of the Republic of Tunisia. The board of Heads of State has officially launched on December 2020 the pan-African Startup Act initiative in order to provide legal, policy, regulatory, governance/institutional and implementation recommendations conducive to spur the development of robust and sustainable ICT startups and innovation in Africa.

 

  • For you, what are the main outcomes of the Africa PPP Virtual Conference?

From the session I have moderated, I can tell the Africa PPP Virtual Conference positively contributed in shedding light on the various African experiences, mainly Morocco and Kenya, on how these countries approach the digital infrastructure challenge and implement best practices of public-private partnerships.

Name Hanae Bezad
Position Project Manager for Startups and Innovation, Smart Africa Secretariat
Event Africa PPP 2020

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