Africa can bridge digital divide if it scales innovations in e-commerce and agritech

Almost two years into the pandemic, Covid-19 has rapidly accelerated the digital transformation of economies globally. For businesses in some parts of the world, such as Pacific Asia, Covid-19 has fast-forwarded digitalisation by more than 10 years.

However, not all countries have seen a boost to their digitisation efforts during the pandemic. Many countries in the developing world, including Africa, continue to be challenged by the severe digital divide largely due to infrastructure and cost barriers.

Thankfully, it is not all grim. While the digital divide persists, African countries have an opportunity to scale the innovations in the agriculture and e-commerce sectors from the past two years. Scaling these innovations, which are often driven by private sector initiatives, will require policy efforts that focus on regional integration and targeted support towards digital adoption.

These silver linings have the potential to boost economies, transform the respective sectors beyond the pandemic, and power new possibilities for the continent in terms of wealth creation and employment.

Innovation in agriculture

Agriculture is a pillar of Africa’s economy, contributing 23 per cent of the continent’s GDP and 49 per cent of employment. The sector, estimated to be operating at only 40 per cent of its potential, has long called for technological innovation to unlock its full capacity. While the pandemic saw the sector challenged by disruptions to access to labour, agricultural inputs, advisory services, and output markets, it also saw increased adoption of digital technologies in some parts of the continent.

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