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Digitizing Sub-Saharan Africa, the hopes and hurdles,

The IMF’s African department* examines how digitalization can transform economies and people’s lives. The COVID‑19 pandemic has amplified those hopes. The pandemic illustrates the value of digitalization, but is also a stark reminder of the remaining digital divide.

  • While telework arrangements have allowed businesses to continue partial operations in many countries, the switch to telework has been less pronounced in sub‑Saharan Africa.
  • The pandemic seems set to accelerate sub-Saharan Africa’s digital transformation yet digitalization does not happen by itself, nor is it a cure‑all.

The Mobile Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa,

  • Sub-Saharan Africa had 300 mobile internet and 778 cellular subscriptions per 1,000 people in 2017. However, there is a significant gap between subscriptions and unique users, particularly for mobile phone connections. Looking at unique mobile subscribers, only half of the region’s population is covered, with the number closer to 25 percent for mobile internet subscriptions.
  • They conclude that the potential benefits of achieving universal mobile phone and internet access are significant.
  • The World Bank’s biannual publication “Africa’s Pulse” has a special chapter on “leveraging the digital economy to eradicate poverty in Africa.”

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