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Africa set for opportunity, innovation

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Africa is set to continue its rapid growth trajectory, and the co-development of technology has the potential to transform lives, drive collaboration, spur entrepreneurship and share ideas.
This is according to Hilton Romanski, Cisco’s chief strategy officer, speaking to the Cisco Connect South Africa conference yesterday: “Technology is an enabler of freedom and presents unimaginable opportunities for Africa.
“Technology presents many opportunities and challenges for Africa as the fastest urbanising region in the world,” Romanski adds. “Cisco recognises the pipeline of African talent and we are deeply involved in enabling the widespread emergence of tech ecosystems across the continent.”
According to the United Nations, within the next 20 years Africa’s working age population is expected to be over 1-billion, larger than China’s or India’s. While only 2% of the African economy is currently composed of Internet-related services, this figure is expected to grow to 7% or $315-billion by 2025.
“Africa is geographically in the centre of the world, between the East and West, and an emerging powerhouse of the Global South,” says Romanski. “Technology holds the chance for Africa to build more open societies and for some countries to leapfrog others.”
It is expected that, as globalisation continues, more ideas will be exchanged, collaboration will increase, and open development will flourish. Romanski highlights Cisco Spark Board, recently launched in South Africa, as an example of how global collaboration is becoming easier, increasing the freedom to share, learn, teach and work in more places.
“Technology plays a key role in powering openness and collaboration so that ideas traverse not just countries, but continents. Digitalisation is revamping the delivery of education, health and other public services, and transforming lives in the process,” Romanski says.
“We are living in an age in which unprecedented digital transformation is occurring in business, economies and political systems. The significance of this is that the policies a country chooses to pursue in the next decade will determine the extent to which their economies will develop, compete and integrate within the global economy.”
According to Romanski, South Africa’s ICT sector has a responsibility to support young entrepreneurs and SMMEs in general. One element of Cisco’s focus on innovation in the country has been through co-development. For example, the company invested R12-million in the Tshimologong Precinct at the University of Witwatersrand last year.
Apart from enabling entrepreneurs to build businesses that will shape the world, Cisco sees continued digitalisation as opportunities to:
* Improve the country’s competitiveness on the global stage;
* Allow governments to extend the reach and impact of public services; and
* Provide more accessibility and opportunities for education and technology-based careers.