Africa’s potential is undeniable; for starters, the continent has the largest mineral industries in the world and is the world's second fastest growing continent, economically, according to the African Development Bank.
The continent leads the world in mobile adoption, which continues to offer the biggest cross-sectoral economic opportunities according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Despite these glowing statistics however, are some challenges.
“Missing across much of sub-Saharan Africa are the roads, rails, ports, airports, power grids and IT backbone needed to lift African economies,” Tarek Sultan Al Essa, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman, Board of Agility, Kuwait said during a World Economic Forum on Africa discussion.
“This lack of infrastructure hinders the growth of imports, exports, and regional business. Companies that can connect Africans and markets can prosper,” he added.
Sthe Shabangu, the lead, Public Relations, Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Africa Office says it's easy to be proud of all that we are achieving as a continent in the wake of Africa month, but there is need to be reminded that more needs to be done to unleash the continents full potential.
“There's little doubt that our vibrant continent is making great strides towards a bright future, with our economy expected to grow by 3.4% in 2017 and 4.3% in 2018, according to research in the African Outlook Report.
“But the 110 million children in Africa who, according to the Internet for Education in Africa report, have never seen the inside of a classroom would likely tell us that it's not enough - and they would be right,” Shabangu says.
She notes that children across Africa's rural communities are being left behind - and with more than 70% of the continent's population living in rural areas, this is a major problem.
The Africa Outlook Report shows that at least half the population resides more than 25km from the nearest fibre connection. Shabangu notes that it's clear that while we may be celebrating the growth of connectivity in cities, last-mile connectivity is still a major stumbling block.
She says that education is not the only challenge that requires our urgent attention. Equally troubling and of no less importance is the healthcare sector. With serious diseases like Ebola, malaria, cholera, meningitis and HIV/AIDS still threatening a great number of African lives, we have our work cut out for us.
“In fact, Brand South Africa reports that while Africa shoulders one quarter of the global disease burden, it is home to just 2% of the world's doctors.
“Despite the serious situation, Africa's health care systems still lack the capacity to research, produce and deploy the health care solutions we so desperately need,” Shabangu explains.
Private sector intervention required
Shabangu says that discussions at the recent World Economic Forum Africa Summit in Durban, South Africa clearly show that private sector intervention is needed to steer the continent to a more prosperous future.
“It is in the private sector that the resources to invest in people and product development exist. As Samsung has discovered first hand, each investment, whether in education or health care or perhaps even both, has the potential to transform hundreds of lives at a time,” she says.
She notes that Samsung’s social interventions such as the solar powered ‘Internet Schools’ which are equipped with interactive whiteboards, Samsung Galaxy Note PCs and printers, and Tele-Medical Centres which provide a variety of eye, ear, blood, dental and pre- and post-natal screening and treatments have had a real impact in improving livelihoods.
“Through innovations like these, we believe it's possible to start changing the status quo. It's true that we still have a great deal of work to do if we want to see our incredible continent continue on its path of transformation, but I firmly believe that the key to our success lies in the power of innovation,” Shabangu says.
“The drive to serve as a catalyst for transformation across the continent is in our DNA. And just as it's been our mandate to inspire innovation in Africa, so Africa has inspired us. When it comes to innovation, the limits to what we as a dynamic and developing continent can achieve are few. We have only to look to ourselves,” she adds.