The SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap considers STI including digitalization as an essential driver of industrial competitiveness. The 2021 African Economic Outlook (AEO)1 stresses the need to launch “an accelerated digitalization— an all-out effort to harness digital technologies—to propel Africa into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and boost job creation”. COVID-19-induced economic lockdowns and other containment measures have prompted many companies to increase their use of digital technologies. The 2021 AEO notes that “the accelerated digitalization in Africa resulting from pandemic-related containment measures continues to boost the productivity of human and physical capital in the private and public sectors” and could become an important force propelling economic development.

In addition, the digital sector can be an important stand-alone economic sector and act as a driver of increased efficiency in the services sector. African economies, in particular Southern Africa that account for the most services-intensive economies on the continent, must not neglect the potentially transformative role of high knowledge-intensive services, such as information and communications technology (ICT), business services and digital financial services, in order to promote its export diversification (UNCTAD, 2022)

The successful deployment of STI in the services sector can contribute to enhancing its productivity growth. The second round of online business surveys, in which the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Subregional Office for Southern Africa (ECA-SRO-SA)3 collaborated with the ECA African Trade Policy Centre (ECA-ATPC) and International Economics Consulting (IEC), confirmed the resort to technology and innovation by African firms as a lever for addressing the economic impact of Covid 19. Indeed, while the share of e-commerce revenues remained relatively small among surveyed firms (about 16 percent), nearly half (47 percent) of the companies surveyed indicated that they were moving or planning to move towards innovative solutions through collaboration/partnerships.

Download Resources