Africa is one of the fastest urbanizing continents in the world. Approximately 40 percent of Africa’s current population lives in big cities like Mogadishu, Accra, Kinshasa, Abidjan, and Luanda, to name just a few. It’s estimated that in just over a decade from now, Africa will have 760 million urban residents and a total population of 1.2 billion citizens by 2050.
These developments create a tremendous demand for efficient and sustainable infrastructure for healthcare, energy, and transportation applications. The full spectrum of offerings from Siemens for electrification, automation, and digitalization is a perfect fit for these requirements, and we can also expand our commitment to our Business to Society ethos. Allow me to share a few of my key takeaways from the Africa Digitalization Maturity Report. This report was compiled by Siemens Southern & Eastern Africa, which was launched in 2017. The report assesses maturity in manufacturing, energy, and transportation and focuses on the countries Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. While South Africa is my home country, I have been to all of these nations.
The most obvious takeaway is this: Organizations in Africa are digitalizing. However, the level of digital maturity is not the same in all countries.
Ethiopia and Kenya are both in East Africa, their economies are of a similar size, and they’re growing at similar rates, but Kenya is ahead in terms of digital maturity. This can be attributed to its having a far more extensive ICT infrastructure and mobile Internet or 3G infrastructure.
Solutions are not easily deployable across the continent without significant business model adaptations that cater to particularly high social and economic constructs. Significant localization is required to adapt to local conditions, from infrastructure challenges to affordability and education.
In an African context, disruptive technology drives development. Solutions for developed economies don’t always work in more underdeveloped countries. In Africa particularly, true innovation is typically born of necessity.
According to the report, manufacturing is the most mature in terms of the digitalization journey. The actual adoption level of smart technologies that will accelerate the next industrial revolution – Industry 4.0 – remains in the foundation stage, but awareness of the significance and potential of this exponential technology is high.
In the energy sector, it was noted in the report that without stable electricity it’s difficult to accomplish anything digitally. Some of the key challenges the African power industry must confront are related to unreliable generation capacity, costly transmission, workforce skill limitations, and underdeveloped customer and billing management systems.
In the transportation sector, new ways of using existing infrastructure more efficiently are being enabled through digitalization. The rail and road sectors need to move beyond electrification and automation to true digitalization and focus on extending and integrating islands of excellence to solve the pressing mobility needs of the population.
One of the report’s conclusions is that digitalization in Africa will only take off in small, isolated areas unless governments begin to drive overarching policies that ensure consistency of standards.