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Africa-India Partnerships: E-governance identified as a key enabler of Africa’s transformation
E-governance is the future of development, and without it African countries will struggle, says Malawi’s Secretary to the Treasury, Ben Botolo.
Featuring on a panel discussion on “Africa-India Partnerships in E-Governance” on Thursday, May 25, at the AfDB’s 52nd Annual Meetings, Botolo said Africa stands to benefit from e-governance as evidence shows that it reduces physical interface, thereby reducing costs.
“If we look at this session, it is what defines the future of development,” said Botolo. “Take revenue for example. E-governance reduces the interface between the tax payer and the tax collector, thereby reducing the chances of corruption. However, in Africa, we still face challenges in terms of the physical side of ICT – cyber network systems, especially in countries that are landlocked like Malawi. Hence the need for huge investments.”
Botolo commended the Pan Africa e-Network project supported by India, through which his country has benefited.
Amadou Sanneh, Gambia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, said his country was among the first in Africa to develop an ICT and e-governance strategy, which he said has led to a number of real benefits in the delivery of services to the people.
“There was a government-wide email system which was developed in 2010; there was a marine cable establishment; there was an internet exchange point in 2014 to localize traffic and lessen the burden on our international band-width and fibre-optic network which covered the whole country,” said Sanneh.
He also highlighted the Gambian Central Bank’s new national payment system, which he said allows for electronic clearance of cheques, thereby reducing costs for bank transactions and other payment platforms.
But for the Government of India, its support to African countries is driven by its own achievements and realizing that Africa is in many ways similar to India – with a high number of people still financially excluded.
Ajay Kumar, Joint Secretary of the Department of Electronics and IT for the Indian Government, believes India’s record e-governance transformation “gives hope to our friends in Africa and shows them what is possible.”
“For us, digital India is a key vector in the transformation of India, and it is taking place at unprecedented speed, faster than has ever been seen in the last 70 years since Independence. Today, we are using technology and e-governance for people who are economically weaker and disadvantaged in our country. The whole effort in digital is to see how technology can empower the poor. It is defined by three themes: affordability, inclusivity and development,” he said. He cited the country’s biometric digital identity system with over one billion people, praising its cost-efficiency at US $ 1 per identity.
With such an ICT and e-governance revolution, India and African leaders on the panel concluded that Africa’s transformation hinges largely on how well it develops its governance delivery systems to reduce costs. E-governance, they said, is key to this.