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data-driven innovation

Africa CEO Forum Webinar: Regulation, a key lever for data-driven innovation

On 8 October, the second webinar co-organized by the Africa CEO Forum and Huawei, and entitled “Profiter de l’innovation basée sur les données” (“Leveraging data-driven innovation”), brought together James Claude, CEO of Global Voice Group, Adham Abouzied, associate at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bola Adesola, VP of Afrique de Standard Chartered Bank, Chakib Achour, Marketing Director of Huawei Morocco and Ayotunde Coker, Secretary General of the African Data Center Association.

For just under an hour and a half, this panel, moderated by Ravi Chhatpar, associate and co-founder of Dalberg Design, discussed how the use of technologies based on data analytics could promote innovation for the private sector and the public authorities. The need for infrastructure and the key issue of regulation were at the heart of the exchanges.

The webinar started with an update from BCG, which emphasized the contrast between the continent’s lag in terms of digital transformation and the financial institutions’ advances as regards the leveraging of the data to enable the development of solutions on the Africa market. Bola Adesola pointed out that BCG considered data as fuel for their activity and invested in Fintechs in order to better structure their products. Although the banking sector has played its cards well, a recent study carried out by BCG in 18 African countries highlighted that, for the other private stakeholders, the misuse of analytical solutions by companies and the inability to derive value from data represented the main barriers to innovation.

Just like talents, digital infrastructure is essential to achieve digital transformation, which requires improved connectivity as one of its foundations. Chakib Achour pointed out that 17% of the world’s population lived in Africa, but that the continent only held 1% of the global storing capacity. James Claude added that there was a critical need to invest in infrastructure, for the sake of data sovereignty. There is still a long way to go, and a better broadband penetration, coupled with the development of algorithms, is needed to turn this data into actionable information.

In addition to the proven shortage of infrastructure, the exchanges focused on the regulation issue. Does it constitute a barrier or a driver for innovation? In his answer to this question, James Claude, referring to the Kenyan platform M’Pesa as an example, pointed out how much regulation had contributed to the development of the Mobile Money ecosystem in the country and in East Africa, where it played the part of a very effective driver for innovation. Highlighting the effectiveness of the Vision 2020 plan, the framework within which Rwanda achieved its exemplary digitization, James Claude also insisted on the need for collaboration in this domain and on the importance of a continental approach, which the Smart Africa Alliance is already working toward.

Regulation must be seen as a strategic asset, and not as a barrier to growth. In connection with the growth of Mobile Money services in Tanzania and Rwanda, the monitoring of dematerialized transaction flows has allowed the Central Banks to ensure the relevance, and compliance with, the regulations in force.

Furthermore, Bola Adesola and James Claude agreed on the prospects the analysis of mobility data open up. James Claude highlighted the benefits of using mobility data to support the fight against the spread of Covid-19, and Bola Adesola insisted on the relevance of mobility data to complement demographics, with a view to elaborating projections that would make it possible to adapt the infrastructure and plan public transport, among others.

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