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African ICT Foundation sets tone for post-COVID-19 economic recovery among MSMEs in Africa

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MSMEs - image Credit: ILO/Google
The African ICT Foundation (AfICTF), an organization dedicated to advocating for African technology development, knowledge transfer and innovation, held a webinar on Tuesday with the theme “Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Road Map for Africa MSME”, as part of her contributions to getting medium and small scale businesses ready to face the post-covid economic climates.

The webinar which was held on Google Meet saw attendance from different parts of Africa, with speakers drawn from the technology, education, media, economic-policy sub-sectors, amongst others.

Tony Ojobo, President and Chairman of AFICTF

Some of the keynote speakers included the President, Association initiative et Développement Essaouira Agadir from Morocco, Ali Zamharir; the Zonal Chairman (South-South) National Association of Microfinance Banks from Nigeria, Kufre Lawson; the Founder, President and Project Manager at First Skills Club from Tunisia, Faten Khalfallah Hammouda; the CEO Tishri InfoTech Nigeria Limited, Oludare Akinbo, and Peter Oluka, the Editor at Techeconomy.ng Nigeria’s premier technology.

Setting the ball rolling, the President of AfICT and Founder of TechX Innovation Hub, Mr Tony Ojobo advocated for Africans and African governments in particular to embrace the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic in creating a roadmap for the continent and preparing for new realities.

He said that COVID-19 exposed the ill-preparedness of African countries with regards to infrastructure to deliver services in a pandemic of this nature.

He said while schools remain shut due to Covid-19, millions of African children in the rural areas are left with no infrastructure support to adopt eLearning like their counterparts in the urban centers.

Ojobo said that African leaders must rethink their strategies with regards to safeguarding the future of the youths and the continental economies at large.

Faten Khalfallah, when delivering her keynote speech, called on all players on the continent to invest in educating young people.

AfICTF

Speakers and participants at the Webinar by AfICTF

According to her “we need to train our kids to be able to react during times of trouble.”

Faten further stated that Africa must train its children to not be just consumers, but to be “productive in thinking for themselves and thinking for others.”

Ali Zamharir, in his own speech called for more cooperation between the field of ICT and civil society as a way of responding to changes like the ones that the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated.

Zamharir argued that the cooperation between ICT and civil society “clearly proved their efficiency during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will certainly play even a bigger role for a permanent recovery from the pandemic and after.”

Kufre Lawson, in his own submission, called for African businesses to take advantage of the effects of the COVID-19 on loans and grants.

He said that many loan organizations, including the microfinance bank he is a Managing Director at, have lowered their stringent requirements for loan approvals and that there are still opportunities for grants that MSMEs can take advantage of.

Lawson said, “Africa needs to break the vicious cycle of poverty, wars, disease, underdevelopment, shortage of food supply and climate challenge which may be exacerbated by Covid 19.

“In spite of the negative impact of the pandemic, MSMEs in Africa could leverage the loans, grants and donor opportunities for quick recovery.”

Rachael Orumor, an Software Research & Development Expert, and the current Vice President at African ICT Foundation presented next on the topic “Beyond COVID-19: African startups Persistence Strategy.”

She called on businesses to employ innovative strategies post COVID-19 to make sense of their new realities.

According to Orumor “Startups must realistically set targets of their prospects taking into account the consequences of the crisis in order to avoid making plans that could disappoint them in the long run.”

She pointed out steps that startups can employ to cushion the effects of the pandemic as follows:

“It is good to be positive, but make forecasts in the worst-case scenario so as not to be surprised.

– Startups must prepare for the post-crisis period, bearing in mind that the crisis could not be close to an end until a vaccine has been found.

– Be open to planning review considering present day reality and reflect on how to adapt services to the constraints in the long term.”

Sarah Mhamilawa, a member of Pan African Lawyers Union ICT committee in Tanzania sued for more internet connectivity in Africa post COVID-19 during her presentation.

She said that TV white spaces should be used to deliver broadband in rural areas to enable eLearning for rural dwellers in Africa as she believes that Africa has to train its children or risk being spectators in the 21st Century.

Oludare Akinbo, while delivering his keynote address on “Impact of COVID-19 on the African Health Sector and the way forward.” decried the situation of the health sector and clearly showed how the continent’s burgeoning population has put a huge burden on the healthcare sector.

Akinbo went ahead to list three fundamental steps that the continent can follow to arrest the poor healthcare situation on the continent.

He listed them as:

  • Strengthen and Develop the Primary Healthcare Systems
  • Encourage and Strengthen Information Technology Interventions in Healthcare.
  • Encourage Investors and other private donors to invest in Health Infrastructures in Africa.

Peter Oluka presented on the topic “Role of new media on Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Road Map” where he advocated for businesses to take advantage of opportunities that abound on new media to pivot post COVID-19.

He says, “for small businesses, they need to understand the features of new media and how to make the best use of them.”

AfICTF webinar

Speakers and participants at the Webinar by AfICTF

He also advocates for the media practitioners to help post COVID-19 because according to him, “the media we have is a reflection of the society we live in. The media practitioners themselves need to understand the times we are in and how best to use them.”

The webinar was moderated by a former NITDA Director and a World Bank Consultant on Nigeria’s Digital Economy, Dr. Inyi kemabonta.

The sessions ended with a remark by African ICT Foundation’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Bassey, who thanked the keynote speakers and reiterated the Foundation’s commitment to improving technology on the African continent.

Saviour Adugba is a journalist by day and a poet by night. He is fascinated by the internet of things, virtual reality and connecting the dots for brands. Saviour is the Lead, Content Development at TechEconomy.ng.