It is critical for the future of Africa that ways are found to unlock the potential of local innovation, according to Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. She said could be achieved if African leaders supported SMMEs, and it would contribute to local economic development.
The minister called on African leaders to stand behind SMMEs at a roundtable discussion with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) last week. Ndabeni-Abrahams asked leaders to create an environment that would allow innovative small and medium businesses as well as entrepreneurs to flourish and access regional and global opportunities.
“This will contribute to local economic development, with local innovation often creating solutions that are relevant for our local circumstances and challenges. Often, such solutions can resonate globally too,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
The minister also highlighted the importance of getting the youth involved. “Their success will encourage others and will unleash the creative potential of our youth to solve the developmental challenges we face. Our youthful population is a significant demographic asset,” the minister reminded the roundtable.
“However, they need opportunities to shine. Their success will assist in the upliftment of our people and our economies.” Ndabeni-Abrahams also admitted that the youth needed access to markets. “We need to harness the energy and creativity of our young aspiring entrepreneurs in the region,” she said.
“We must find ways to help them to develop their business plans and skills, and to create a supportive ecosystem that will allow them to develop,” she also said. Ndabeni-Abrahams believed that the implementation of the African Digital Transformation Strategy would be key to unlocking regional integration.
The strategy aims to harness digital technologies and innovation to transform societies and economies to promote Africa’s integration, generate inclusive economic growth, stimulate job creation, break the digital divide, eradicate poverty, and ensure Africa’s ownership of modern tools of digital management. “Local innovation and SMME development can lead to an increase in the continent’s local intellectual property, higher-value employment creation, and increased local and regional investment and production, as well as exports,” she said.
Ndabeni-Abrahams also said that strong infrastructure development was urgently needed for faster Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) development in Africa. “We need to strengthen the infrastructure that links our economies, businesses and people together. This must include not only the transport infrastructure but also the ICT sector,” she said.
The sector was critical in linking businesses and people together, which was the first step in helping strengthen regional integration, the minister said. “It is therefore important to continue to prioritise and strengthen our programmes to build our regional and national ICT infrastructure and the digital economy.
“The implementation of the African Digital Transformation strategy will no doubt be critical to support regional integration,” she said.