Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel shaking the hand of the President of Côte d'Ivoire, Mr Alassane Ouattara at the AGOA session in Abidjan (Pic supplied: the dti)

JOHANNESBURG  - South African minister of economic development, trade and industry Ebrahim Patel on Wednesday punted the adoption of digitization as a strategy to address the challenges of geography, connect economies and industrialize Africa.

Speaking at the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) dialogue in Côte d’Ivoire, Patel said that digitization provides opportunities for industrialization, job creation, entrepreneurship, economic development and tax collection to fund social programmes. 

"Data is to the 21st century what oil and steel was to the 20th century. Africa must become more than a consumer market for digital services produced elsewhere. We must become innovators and producers too, exporting services and building capabilities," he said.

Patel was co-chairing a session of the AGOA with the United States deputy trade representative, Ambassador CJ Mahoney.

But Patel admitted that the process of digitization was uneven as many countries, including those in Africa, lag behind and contribute to a digital divide.

"Technology is a potential platform for leap-frogging. Securing its benefits and realizing its promise, will require well-designed and purposeful public policy measures to promote data for development," he said.  

"It also requires a deep partnership with entrepreneurs and young people who develop the technologies that are changing our world."

Patel said governments needed to consider appropriate public policy, legislative and regulatory measures that may include competition, tax, labour market, SME-promotion, privacy and national security measures. 

He added that the private sector should take initiatives to use technology to expand economic inclusion and growth.

- African News Agency (ANA)