Former Governor of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) Prof Benno Ndulu made the suggestion in Dar es Salaam on Monday when commenting on a report: ‘The Digital Roadmap: How developing countries can get ahead,’ which is to be launched today in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development.
He said countries must work to increase agriculture value through better connectivity to markets by bridging gaps in the value chains as well as creating new avenues in the global value chain by analyzing on how to exploit and participate in the global market.
Prof Ndulu said through global trade and by contracting out various services, developing countries have the ability to provide such services trading the services because services have a much bigger share in the global economy, contributing more than 50-percent to global income compared to manufacturing which contributes 16 percent to the global economy.
“Connecting informal sector to formal sector through technology is already doing this on its part like provision of insurance to bodaboda. These are digital platforms which can connect those who need and those who supply services to those who need them,” he stated.
For countries to achieve this objective they must be digitally ready, an extremely important component which must also be country-based and led by assessing the country’s status digitally and discussion to find out potential winners and losers, the don elaborated.
In the report ‘The Digital Roadmap: How developing countries can get ahead,’ the commission outlines ten steps that can put countries ‘firmly in the driving seat’ in determining their future digital pathways.
“Just as there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for digital development, so there is no substitute for getting government to lead conversations with business and civil society around a table and collectively agreeing the digital vision for their country,” said Prof Ndulu, academic director for the Pathways Commission.
“Countries can’t just import global tech policies wholesale– we need to ensure laws and regulations work for our national contexts and keep up with the rapid speed of change,” he told the gathering.
From the tech start-ups of Bangalore to government ministries in Ethiopia and nomadic farmers in Mongolia, the Commission has spent two years gathering a rich body of evidence to show how lower-income countries can harness new technologies to deliver development for all citizens, not just the privileged few.
“This year, half the world is online for the first time ever. The challenge is to ensure that the growing digital trajectories are a force for inclusive development.
“Failure to switch on economies for the digital age will risk widening the gap between rich and poor countries, as well as fueling inequalities within them,” the report asserts.
Some of these trends are daunting. Africa’s labour force will grow by 285 million people from 2010 to 2030 – more than all the manufacturing jobs in China and India. Ensuring there will be opportunities for these people will be the key to social and political stability, he pointed out.
Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s Finance Minister and co-chair of the Pathways Commission, is quoted in the report as declaring that this is a critical moment in history and the stakes for developing countries could not be higher.
“Governments and societies cannot sit back passively and watch the digital revolution happening around them – they must pick up the tools that are available and become authors of their own digital destinies. Getting digitally ready will take vision, collaboration and deliberate planning to ensure everyone benefits.”
One of the Commission’s key recommendations is that countries craft a ‘national digital compact.’
It involves bringing together representatives of all parts of government, civil society and the private sector to create and agree the vision and manage the trade-offs inherent in national digital transformation.
This agreement will help countries to navigate the profound impacts technologies are having on their societies and economies. From here, countries can develop inclusive digital strategies – futures where everyone gains, he added.