President Cyril Ramaphosa. File Photo: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

CAPE TOWN – As Africa moves towards greater broadband connectivity it needs to ensure that the poor and marginalised are not left behind, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Thursday as he delivered a speech on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa was called away to address thousands who protested the ongoing violence against women and children at Parliament, leaving Mboweni to participate in a panel discussion on shaping inclusive growth as part of the fourth industrial revolution.

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"We all know that economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurial activity is inextricably linked to broadband access. We therefore need to ensure that broadband access – like health care and education – is available to all," Mboweni read from Ramaphosa's prepared script.

"If we do not overcome social, economic and spatial inequality in the provision of broadband, we will simply perpetuate the economic exclusion of the majority of our people. In the development of our policy and in the implementation of our programmes, we need to ensure that technology promotes greater equity and broader social and economic participation."

Ramaphosa said Africa needed to craft a roadmap to navigate new and disruptive technologies, but at the same time needed to protect the continent's citizens against the adverse consequences of automation like downsizing and work redundancies.

He cited India as an example of a country which leveraged technology to broaden access to banking in rural areas and digitised its public distribution system, providing subsidised food to the poor. 

"This type of innovation presents tremendous opportunities for tasks like social grant distribution, electrification and internet access," Ramaphosa's speech read.

"We must be open to new ways of thinking. We must be prepared to take risks, or risk being left behind."

African News Agency (ANA)