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AfDB affirms commitment to Africa’s digital revolution

THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has urged businesses and countries who need financing to expand digital public infrastructure to approach the bank for support.

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At the 3i Summit in Accra, the Director of the Private Sector Development Department of the AfDB, Aida Ndir Ngom, said the bank, together with the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, has invested heavily in Africa’s digital ecosystem and was committed to do more.

“Currently, 85 per cent of Africans have access to mobile coverage and it didn't happen by chance; 37 out of the 38 coastal countries have access to submarine cables and this didn’t happen by chance.”

“A lot of the countries, we're talking about Ghana, Nigeria, have one of the best secure payment systems you can think about so we must applaud Africa for the progress we have made,” she stated.

She said the continent was, however, challenged with regard to digital public infrastructure (DPI), adding that while there has been some progress in some countries, it has been in silos.

“As a bank, we are committed and for the next five years, we are committed to supporting governments in developing and financing frameworks that allow interoperable digital systems.

“So the bank is committed. If you need financing, we are your bank,” she stated.

Ms Ngom also called for the need to have a deeper conversation on an assessment of where Africa is right now when it comes to digital infrastructure and what it would take to bridge the infrastructure gap.

DPI is critical 

The First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Maxwell Opoku Afari, contributing to a panel discussion, said the key features of DPI were trust, safety, interoperability and connectivity.

“If you look at all these then what comes to my mind as an economist is delivery of public goods,” he said. He added that trust, for instance, was very critical when it comes to DPI.

“When the Bank of Ghana piloted the Central Bank Digital Currency, one big lesson that came out of it was that if it is the government led by the central bank then we are happy to be on it.”

“We are talking about trust in there. So if you look at the key features of DPI, the question is delivery of public goods.” 

“When it comes to delivery of public goods, what is the role of the government? Do we expect the private sector to deliver public goods and at what costs? 

“Because DPI is also to ensure that the services are delivered at reduced costs to be able to improve inclusion,” he said.

Mr Opoku Afari said it was therefore necessary for the private and public sectors to partner to be able to deliver that kind of DPI that would be able to deliver services to close the digital gap. This, he said, would also promote inclusion, while assuring safety and interoperability within and across the continent.

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