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China harps on digital economy to eradicate poverty in Africa

By Ngozi Egenuka
10 October 2022   |   2:21 am
The envoy also called for deeper collaboration to address issues such as consumer protection, authentication, data localisation, cross-border data flow, cyber security and data protection.

Chu Maoming

China has urged Nigeria to leverage the digital economy to eradicate poverty.

The envoy also called for deeper collaboration to address issues such as consumer protection, authentication, data localisation, cross-border data flow, cyber security and data protection.

This was made known at the Africa-China Economic Partnership Agenda Conference (ACEPAC), hosted by the Afri-China Media Centre (ACMC), in Lagos, themed: “Partnering with China to Build Africa’s Digital Economy”.

China Consul General in Nigeria, Chu Maoming, said that Nigeria has the potential to develop its digital economy, adding that in the past few years, Chinese companies have contributed to Nigeria through various ways, such as the construction of a 5g network, which is the foundation for the development of the digital economy.

“There is plenty of evidence that Nigeria has strong potential to develop digital economies. According to data from Nigerian Communications Commission, the number of mobile Internet users in Nigeria has exceeded 150 million as of June 2022, with an Internet penetration rate of nearly 70 per cent.

“Nowadays, China and Nigeria are the largest economies, respectively in Asia and Africa, and both countries are actively developing their digital economies with notable success with Data from the Nigerian NBS showing that the ICT sector contributed almost 18 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP growth in the second quarter of 2021, second only to agriculture,” he added.

Director-General (DG), Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, noted that through the policy formulation role, the institute played for the government, which translated into laws, Nigeria is ready to embrace at a larger scale those possibilities the digital economy presents.

Osaghae emphasised the advantages of the digital economy sector in projects and businesses of the institute, which has enabled it to handle more manpower development, training and conferences.

While applauding the ACMC and Renmin University, for organising the conference, the DG, tasked Nigerians in both public and private sector on the need for greater development and manpower to run the sector.

Executive Director of Afri-China Media, Ikenna Emewu, said the conference was held to complement Nigeria’s Digital Economy Policy of 2019 and to help chart a course for the country in this sector that has revolutionised the global economy.

He noted that Nigeria and Africa couldn’t afford to lag behind in adopting their economies to the digital possibilities that have been transforming the way the world operates.

“That is why we need China’s partnership because China knows the way in all aspects. They first rolled out the 5G-telephone technology. They are into big data, cloud computing, manufacturing of hardware, fibre-optic cable laying, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and general interconnectivity with the world, including Africa.

He noted that Nigeria has almost half of all young people, who have made commendable marks in the digital wave in Africa and they have been doing so great.

“This summit would challenge Nigeria and Africa to do more in this aspect. We have been merely consumers of the products of this sector and hardly manufacturers, and we need to change the narrative.

“It is China that made smartphones, a core component of the digital economy hardware, affordable in Africa where over 84 per cent of the digital economy access through the Internet is by mobile gadgets. That is why we have Chinese experts and operators in the sector to discuss with and share ideas, and we hope this conference would lay the foundation for growth in the sector,” Emewu added.

Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University, Prof Yan Yan, said China leveraged technology and agriculture to move its people out of poverty.

She noted that through digital enablers, rural-urban migration has been drastically mitigated and places that used to be inaccessible to modern development have been captured and made better, adding that the income of rural people has improved through the digital economy advancement.

“Rural places in China have been lifted from hardship and poverty, deploying the digital economy possibilities. There are locations in China where drones are deployed to deliver mail, drugs, foods and other essential items and also pick up agricultural produce,” she added.

Director, Research and Studies, NIIA, Dr. Efem Ubi, speaking on China-Africa cooperation and the transformation of African digital economy, reiterated the need for capacity building and citizen equipping to boost Africa’s digital economy.

He, however, noted that the development of e-commerce remains constrained by traditional restrictions, logistic challenges, digital and physical connectivity, limited Internet penetration, lack of secure Internet servers and access to financial systems.

He urged the Chinese government to encourage its tech firms to gradually shape a digital ecosystem across Africa. He added that Africa should tap from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build and upgrade its digital economy.

However, he emphasised that in the collaboration between China and African government, economic opportunities should be weighed against the risk of new dependencies, which may affect their country’s security and emerging technological capabilities.

Chief Operating Officer (COO), Global System Resources 360 Ltd, Misty Uba, called for reinforcement of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation and jointly strive for economic recovery and growth in the Post COVID-19 era.

He also stressed the need to strengthen the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and promote of supply and production chain post-COVID-19 era,

Professor, the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), He Wenping made a presentation on the cooperation between China and Africa in the post-COVID-19 era and why it needs to be further consolidated in other areas.

She stressed the need to further such good cooperation to fight the pandemic in the digital economic sector.

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