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The Gathering of solutions and innovations that will spark Africa’s golden age

Lesley Williams moderates the panel Grassroot problems, Grassroot solutions with speakers including businesswoman Emma Kaye, General Manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa Alon Lits and Head of Financial Services Technology, Nevellan Moodley during Daily Maverick’s The Gathering on Friday, 6 March 2020. (Photo: Leila Dougan)
By Uber
12 Mar 2020 0

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is presenting Africa with the opportunity to employ technology and partnerships as leverage to address challenges and take up opportunities in the digital era, which is characterised by fast-pace innovation and technological development, as well as disruption.

While technology by itself isn’t the solution, when it’s done right—and combined with good partnerships such as The Gathering conference that recently took place in Cape Town—it has the potential to contribute to a better country for all.

For instance, Africa usually is a laggard in terms of tech adoption and integration, but when it comes to mobile money, the continent isn’t playing second fiddle to any other global region. Thanks to companies such as digital money transfer provider SimbaPay, the continent sports one of the fastest take-up rates for mobile money services globally.

Consequently, the diaspora community within the US or Europe can send money directly to their banked and unbanked family, friends, or colleagues back home. Moreover, they can do so at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions and within seconds as opposed to a few days that a conventional method such as a bank transfer would take.

Helping to ensure safe, reliable, and convenient public transportation

Beyond evolving how the world moves by seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through its apps, companies like Uber are also playing a role in cities’ adoption of smart digital strategies. To be sure, transportation is one of the key areas of interest for cities as they seek digital solutions to problems, including ever-increasing commute times and road-choking congestion.

Platforms like Uber Movement provides city leaders, urban planners, and the general public with the right data and tools to more deeply understand and address urban transportation challenges.

Capitalising on these opportunities requires people to have the necessary skills, and across the continent the skills gap, particularly concerning digital skills like coding, is problematic. But here too, partnerships can help overcome this hurdle.

For example, local businesses such as Broadband Infraco and Google South Africa are partnering around a collaboration aimed at providing learners and teachers within remote rural areas with the necessary skills to prepare for today’s changing work environments and the impact that the 4th Industrial Revolution will bring about.

Programmes such as these are vital, as I believe that 4IR is more about skills than technology. The focus should be on equipping people with the right skills, and it was an important discussion during most of the panels at The Gathering. 

Broadening broadband’s footprint to enhance its impact and innovative responses to eco challenges

Nevellan Moodley, a financial services partner at BDO, highlighted during the conference the fact that the positive impact of broadband connectivity isn’t being felt within various communities in South Africa. Here, various pilot initiatives from companies like Microsoft and Google aim to drastically improve internet access within previously disadvantaged areas and semi-rural parts of South Africa, through the utilisation of TV white space technologies (unused frequencies in the wireless spectrum between TV broadcasts). This enables rural clinics to provide enhanced levels of public health service delivery, rural schools to bring digital technologies into the educational pedagogies, and rural business to market themselves and sell to a whole new target market.

Local announcements on the data prices front have also been encouraging including the Competition Commission recently revealing that Vodacom will reduce monthly data prices by at least 30% as of 1 April 2020. Moreover, the operator will also provide a full zero-rated internet search function that will be powered by Wikipedia, which translates to customers being able to search for any topic online.

Local initiatives such as the Youth Employment Service (YES), which is a business-led collaboration with government (public-private partnership), aims to stimulate job creation through private sector investment. Examples of the participating companies include Volkswagen Group South Africa that is supporting the YES programme by offering work opportunities to 520 unemployed youth. Participating youth obtain a 12-month employment period, resulting in 141 candidates being placed at VWSA, another 194 working for the VWSA dealership network and 185 candidates being taken in by SME host partners. 

The innovative technology platforms provided by companies such as Uber along with effective private-public partnerships can have a network effect that can become the solution to numerous challenges experienced within a country like South Africa. These regularly culminate in business ecosystems that would advance education, health, and service delivery, and ultimately leads towards the turbocharging of development. 

Ultimately, by exploring the latest technology trends and finding great partners, companies of all sizes and across the continent will discover ways to make people’s lives better in the communities that they serve, and help drive regional economic growth. DM

This article was written by Yolisa Kani – Head of Public Policy for Southern Africa at Uber

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