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Can Africa take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Emerging nations like Guinea can make better choices about how they develop. We don’t need to repeat the mistakes of the West.

-Alpha Condé, President of Guinea

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 9 declares that, “Sustained investment in infrastructure and innovation are crucial drivers of economic growth and development.” As we approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with internet technology infrastructure more important than ever, how is Africa placed to take advantage?

“The mobile phone has become a game-changer” for Africa, according to WEF, with a higher continental penetration than electricity. But as the world gets more connected, will Africa’s low internet penetration leave it behind?


Data from the 2015 Ibrahim Index of African Governance gives cause for optimism, as Telephone & IT Infrastructure and Digital Connectivity are, respectively, the second and third most improved indicators across the entire IIAG. In some cases, Africa is leading technology innovation, for example with the world’s first drone-port in Rwanda.

Technology also plays a great role in providing access to information, promoting transparency and accountability. 68% of Twitter users in Africa rely on this platform as a primary source of information on national news.

However, although we live in the technology-driven age, the development communities and many African Governments still rely too much on guesswork.

There is a need for reliable, timely and comparable data. The Data Revolution called for by the high-level panel on the Post 2015 development agenda requires bringing together the traditional statistical community with innovative initiatives, such as using mobile technology and other advances to enable real-time monitoring of development results. All this can secure rapid improvements in baseline data if harnessed properly, and ensure Africa is well-placed to take advantage and compete on a global scale.