Chilima asks Sadc countries to transition to digital economies in face of Covid-19

Malawi’s deputy leader, Saulos Chilima, has called on Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) member states to consider adopting recommendations he made in his public lecture delivered on Thursday at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) on the sidelines on the 41st Ordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government.

The lecture, organised by the government of Malawi through the National Planning Commission (NPC), and titled In the lecture, titled ‘Promoting digitalization for revival of the Sadc industrialization agenda in the Covid-19 era’, discusses, among others, how digitalization can turn out to be effective for Africa amidst Covid-19.

“I hope some of the recommendations made can be adopted and put into use both within Sadc bloc and locally,” said Chilima who is also minister responsible for economic planning and public sector reforms.

During the lecture – attended by Sadc summit delegates both virtually and physically – Chilima said harnessing digitalization would be a “game changer for the Sadc region” towards a digital economy as the region continues to feel the pinch of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is an urgent need for serious investment and budgets in the Sadc region should support ICT as a transition to digital economies. Sadc member states should swiftly adopt online marketing for the tourism and other industries and the use of internet and mobile money platforms to create employment,” Chilima said.

According to him, the public lecture came at the right time and would help “Sadc deal with the structural bottlenecks” the region is facing.

He said embracing digitalization was key to “spurring industrialization” in the region.

The Malawi second-in-command said the pandemic provided an opportunity for innovations to thrive in member states.

“The state of industrialization in Africa, in terms of level of industrialization, has improved five-fold since 1990 but it is becoming less competitive when compared to other sectors and other regions globally,” he said, bemoaning that the Sadc region was increasingly becoming more of a consuming than a producing region.

The vice president outlined six tips and recommendations for the Sadc region to use in its digitalization drive.

“Sadc should, as a matter of urgency, invest in digital platforms for a solid and sound foundation for a digital economy such as expansion of broad band coverage so that more people access cheap internet. Sadc should also focus on energy availability and skills development as well as invest in research and technology for development,” he said.

He added: “Sadc should implement regional digitalization reforms to facilitate a digital economy and revolution in the region.

“Digitalization should not be an event but a sustained way of doing business for member states to connect to the global digital economy. We need to establish special funds to spur digitilization as well as revisiting curricula in our schools to include digitalization as core subjects.”

Thembinkosi Mhlongo, Sadc deputy Executive Secretary, earlier first thanked the Malawi government and Chilima for taking time to prepare the lecture saying it was a great space for the public to get some knowledge and information as regards the ongoing Sadc summit.

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