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How technology is fundamental to Africa’s economic recovery after COVID-19

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Technology is fundamental to economic recovery for Africa and globally after COVID-19 pandemic just as it has been critical to fighting the pandemic and transforming society.

Technology is the key to progress and is laying the foundation for constant evolution globally. As Chen Lei, President of Huawei Southern Africa Region points out, the outbreak COVID-19 saw organisations across the planet shift into action. But that was just the start of a digital revolution that is going to sweep across the world.

According to Lei, at Huawei, the organization is aware of the massive effect of the pandemic, as well as how seriously communities would be affected. However, the firm is conscious that as well as protecting lives, it needs to help lay the foundation for the next stage of growth-the the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

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Inspired by a recent YouTube video of Hlumelo, a young South African dancer and a member of the Zama Dance School, Lei says that Hlumelo has not let the lockdown hold him back, but has continued practising his steps for the moment when he and his friends can perform together again.

This is not happening in Gugulethu South Africa alone. Elsewhere in China, members of the Shanghai ballet continued to practise – wearing facemasks – for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake. They took precautions, but remained focused on the next phase of their development.

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“This reminds me of a saying from a Chinese poem that “Good honing gives a sharp edge to a sword. Bitter cold adds keen fragrance to plum blossom,” Lei says. The saying implies that preparation is essential to being effective, and that hardship can shape ultimate success. Indeed, chance favours the prepared mind.

Because we all understand that ICT has a great role to play in terms of keeping us all connected during lockdown, quarantine and social isolation. It also has a fundamental role in the economic recovery of Africa. 

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With shuttered schools and locked-down business, the global conversation right now is how to reopen the economy. Policymakers know that this is not a rushed decision but a well-laid out plan to ensure the safety of the people and their businesses as well.

“When we re-open, communities and workplaces will have to continue practicing social distancing. We will continue to rely on high-speed connectivity to bind us together. In many cases, ICT networks support the fight against the coronavirus, but also the evolution of human society itself,” adds Lei. 

During the pandemic, once Huawei had secured its people and its operations, it looked at how it could support its business partners on the African continent through ICT. Huawei provided video conferencing systems to some African countries to enable information sharing locally and internationally to share info about prevention of the spread of the epidemic.

Huawei’s remote videoconferencing systems have helped medical institutions communicate more efficiently. It has also implemented an AI-based diagnosis solution in several medical institutions. CT scan reviews can now be completed in two minutes, 80% faster, in a race with time, critical for saving lives.

Huawei says it will continue using its core information and communication capabilities to support Africa’s epidemic control efforts. However, when the dust settles, and it begins to arrive at the much-heralded “new normal”, the firm says it would have seen the immense potential for ICT to build social cohesion.

A new business model is taking shape across sectors, one characterised by remote work, distance education, remote healthcare, online shopping and mobile money. These business models span transportation, security, finance, medicine, education and entertainment.

This new paradigm is driven by vastly greater data consumption, facilitated by the mass connectivity of 4G/5G technology.

Governments are coming to understand the need to prioritise ICT as a basic necessity. As a recent white paper noted, the Covid-19 pandemic is seeing 5G transform healthcare response mechanisms to become digital, accurate and smart.

The epidemic has brought home to policymakers the importance of ICT in national development. This is likely to accelerate the establishment of a national data centres, optical fibre networks and communication base stations. 

This kind of “big network” deployment also presents a historic opportunity for Africa to use ICT to catch up with, and overtake other nations in terms of human development and quality of life for all its citizens.

The world is seeing the first signs of digital transformation not just in healthcare systems, but across entire economies, and society itself. 

ICT platforms are likely to provide the foundation of Africa’s future economy. The key is to continue honing and perfecting them, expanding their use even now, so that once the lockdown ends, Africa can recover more quickly. 

“As the old poem notes, good honing does indeed give a sharp edge to a sword. Like Hlumelo and the dancers of the Shanghai ballet, we should spend this time honing our abilities. When the new dawn arrives – as it surely will –  let it find us well prepared to seize the day,” concluded Lei.

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