Mashat: Digitization has become a fundamental part of the development strategy across countries and International Financial Institutions
300 million Africans live 50 km from fiber optic cables, and hence lack internet services
Egypt is progressing towards achieving digital transformation as the Ministry of International Cooperation enhances partnerships between the private sector and development partners to support investments in the field of digitization
Rania Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic has crystallized the importance of digitization as the driving force behind infrastructure development across a wide array of sectors; such as education, transportation, and industry. Mashat added that digitization is no longer just an option and that immense investments in digital infrastructure have become critical to facilitate the transition of countries towards a digital economy. Consequently, many international financial institutions are reformulating their strategies for the next five years with digitization as their main priority.
This came during the virtual participation of the Minister of International Cooperation in the 2021 African Caucus Meeting of the Governors of the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hosted by Burundi, and that lasts from 3 to 5 August under the title “Digitalization for Inclusive Recovery and Sustainable Growth”, with the participation of many state ministers and governors of African countries at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG). The session has taken place with the participation of Dr. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and Ruud de Mooij, Division Chief of the Tax Policy Division. The session discussed the means to stimulate public and private investments and blended finance to enhance digital infrastructure.
The Minister of International Cooperation added that the success of development efforts at the present time has become contingent on the magnitude of investments dedicated for developing digital infrastructure. Mashat highlighted the major challenges facing the African continent, chiefly the need for regulating digital transformation and channeling more investments to mobilize necessary resources.
Another challenge is that nearly 300 million citizens in Africa live more than 50 kilometers from optical fiber or broadband cable connection, and therefore lack high-speed Internet services, which jeopardizes digital transformation in Africa.
Mashat stressed that what hampers the strategy of digital transformation in Africa is creating an investment-friendly environment; providing financing to bridge the gap in the digital infrastructure; and facilitating electronic services and access to the Internet for all citizens without discrimination and at reasonable prices. This stresses the need to encourage the private sector to invest in developing digital infrastructure in the African continent.
The Minister of International Cooperation highlighted national efforts made in Egypt to achieve digital transformation, as the state implements a plan to build a digital Egypt through a comprehensive vision, develop a flexible and secure digital infrastructure, and establish legislative and regulatory frameworks that support digital transformation. She further added that the plan aims to equip government buildings with fiber optic connections to link about 32,000 government buildings together and enhance digital services for the people.
Mashat stressed that Egypt has an opportunity to lead the regional digital transformation efforts since the country is the place for the growth of emerging companies, as it ranked second in terms of the volume of investments in emerging companies during the past year, with investments amounting to $190 million.
Mashat touched on the efforts of the Ministry of International Cooperation to stimulate partnerships between the private sector and development partners to promote digitization through the principles of economic diplomacy, where a Multi-stakeholder Platform (MSP) was held this year on microfinance titled “MSMEs: The Power of Small”, with the participation of I-Score and e-finance companies and representatives of development partners to discuss the aforementioned frameworks.
It is worth noting that the topic of this year's discussion hinges on three axes: providing resources for digital infrastructure, enhancing Africa's ability to benefit from digitization, and mitigating the risks of cryptocurrencies to ensure the integrity of financial systems.