DUBAI- Africa’s emerging "contactless economy" is proliferating in the COVID-era and creating plenty of growth opportunities that African and foreign companies and investors can capitalise on, industry experts said on Wednesday at the Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa 2021 in Dubai.

Held under the theme "Transformation Through Trade", the two-day Forum is being held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

A session titled "Tech-celeration: The Contactless Economy" brought together Lacina Koné, Director-General of the Smart Africa Secretariat from Côte d’Ivoire, and Innocent Muhizi, CEO of Rwanda Information Society Authority.

"When we talk about technology in the developed world, we talk about its disruption, about new players threatening the field," Moderator Goolam Ballim noted. "This is in contrast to what we see in Africa, where technology is seen as more developmental than disruptive.

It allows new players to enter into the market - a market that is often uncharted." Koné spoke about Smart Africa’s vision to transform Africa into a single digital market by 2030. "The strategy consists of five main points: putting Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at the heart of national development plans; improving access to ICT especially for banks; ensuring transparency, accountability, and openness through ICT; putting the private sector first in the ecosystem; and using ICT to promote sustainable development," he said.

"Looking at the registered mobile money market share, Africa owns 50 percent. We also own 70 percent of mobile money transactions globally. Africa by nature is a mobile continent, and we are leading the world in that sector," Koné added. "Intertrade in Africa is only around 18 percent. The African Continental Free Trade Area aims to promote more integration, and Smart Africa is working to facilitate that with smart identity and e-payment solutions."

Underlining the importance of digital solutions, Muhizi noted, "If another pandemic hits, we have no resort but digital. You have to automate certain services. For example, during the pandemic alone, mobile transactions grew by 400 percent."

Muhizi went on to list three important factors to focus on to promote digital technologies: Affordable connectivity, affordable devices, and digital skills. "You have to offer incentives to digital service providers. These include bringing down the cost of transactions, creating an enabling environment for service providers, and upgrading some of the services."

© Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2021.