H.E. Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the former President of Mauritius and Laureate of the 2007 L’Oréal-UNESCO Prize for Women in Science, delivered a trenchant address at the African Export-Import Bank’s (Afreximbank) fifth annual Babacar Ndiaye Lecture on “the importance of science, technology and innovation in the transformation of African economies”. She called on African leaders to close the region’s science and technology gap to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Professor Gurib-Fakim, delivered the keynote speech at the Bank’s annual flagship event and laid bare a raft of statistics that showed that Africa is falling well behind the rest of the world in science, technology, and innovation (STI). Only 0.1% of all patent applications are registered in Africa, compared to 65% in Asia and 25% in North America. Africa is also responsible for only 2% of the world’s research output and 1% of research spending. Furthermore, the laggards in Africa have 11 researchers per million people whilst the best performing countries in the world, such as South Korea and Denmark had between 7,000-8,000 scientists and researchers per million people.
“How can a continent with the largest share of arable land, a continent with the youngest population, a continent that has fueled all of the world’s industrial revolution, a continent that has helped drive the mobile phone industry, a continent that is at the cusp of supporting the world’s energy transition to greener technology with a large store of rare earth deposits accept such dismal statistics?” she asked.
She blamed “chronic neglect”, the statistics demonstrating that the chronic deficit of researchers and scientists has undoubtedly contributed to the poverty trap that the continent finds itself in. “The deficit of investment in science and technology and absence of economic and scientific infrastructure has undermined the process of economic transformation both at the structural level and at the sectoral level. The consequences of that deficit have been significant and include continued reliance on the colonial model of resource extraction largely responsible for the debilitating poverty trap and aid dependence trap.”
The former President remarked that Africa’s failure to advance in science and technology has been compounded by the fragmentation of its markets. She praised the establishment of AfCFTA for overcoming this hurdle and creating the largest single market in the world by membership. However, the economic transformation anticipated by the free-trade market hinges on Africa “closing its scientific and technological gap with the rest of the world” and “sustainably producing the right set of skills to expand both extra and intra African trade.”
This will require collaboration and partnerships to create the right conditions to develop centres of excellence on the continent. Academia, governments and the private sector, she argued, would have to collaborate much more closely to ensure the funding is provided and that the conditions for science to thrive are put in place. In this regard, she praised the leadership role played by Afreximbank in the medical field where the Bank is supporting the growth of pharmaceutical industries and establishment of medical center of excellence.
Professor Gurib-Fakim reminded the audience that the increasing role of technology that was permeating all sectors and industries and driving growth was irreversible. She praised Africa’s successes in certain areas like mobile money, giving the example of M-Pesa which has been adopted in the rest of Africa after being created in Kenya. She equally praised Afreximbank’s Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) which is set to facilitate payments for cross-border trade in African currencies and assuage the liquidity constraints.
One of the major challenges, she said, is the continued brain drain of Africa’s brightest and best scientific minds. The former President encouraged the private and public sector to invest much more in education and research and development. “Every young African has the potential to be a great scientist, to innovate and become globally competitive,” she said.
Professor Benedict Oramah, the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, introduced the lecture by observing that although Africa gained independence six decades ago it has nonetheless failed to achieve economic emancipation. Professor Oramah said that the failure of Africa to secure Covid-19-related equipment such as face masks and ventilators shows that the continent must start manufacturing its own technological goods.
The President of the Bank further pointed out that “while the AfCFTA was a necessary condition for the transformation of African economies, it was not a sufficient one, especially in a world where trade has been largely driven by manufactured goods with increasing technological content.” Among the set of constraints undermining the capacity of the AfCFTA to deliver on its full potential none was as critical as closing the region’s scientific and technological gap. He said: “The most competitive countries in the world are also the ones leading in ICT, innovation, scientific research and development. Africa cannot be kept at the back of the queue.” He also stressed the need to foster the collaboration between research and industry to further enhance the growth and development impact of scientific discovery across the region.
The President of the Bank remarked that Africa once boasted some of the most wealthy and industrious city-states and kingdoms – something that has been forgotten by the rest of the world. He quoted the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral who in the 1500s landed on the coast of Tanzania and found a land full of rich merchants. He also referenced Lourenco Pinto, a Portuguese merchant, who noted that the capital city of the Kingdom of Benin, in modern day Nigeria, was larger than Lisbon and both industrious and wealthy.
Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner of Human Resources, Science and Technology at the African Union Commission (AUC), spoke about continental plans to boost science and technology in Africa. The AUC has set in place its Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) that aims to promote the building and upgrading of research institutions, amongst other things. The plan fits within the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, she said.
Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Afreximbank’s Chief Economist, wrapped up the event by echoing Professor Oramah’s statements that “Africa was the epicentre of and the birthplace of astronomy and mathematics”. He referenced the Dogon community in Mali who for centuries has been fully aware of an invisible star, Sirius B, long before it was discovered by Western astronomers in 1970. “Africa’s current scientific and technological gap with the rest of the world was a historical anomaly”, he added.
However, Dr Hippolyte Fofack welcomed ongoing efforts (though still marginal) by both public and private institutions to mainstream science and technology across the region. He added that Afreximbank has long championed technology and innovation as important drivers of Africa’s economic growth and structural transformation, convinced that setting Africa back on the path of scientific renaissance was a sine qua none condition for economic renaissance and structural transformation.
Lebo Mashile, a South African poet and writer, opened the lecture with a grand and evocative poem that touched on various themes of African history and the continent’s interaction with the rest of the world. Answering the fundamental question who are we? She said “being African is applied science of humanity.” There was also an uplifting musical performance by Cameroonian artiste, Joyce Babatunde.
The Babacar Ndiaye Lecture series, launched by Afreximbank five years ago, honours the founding role Dr Babacar Ndiaye played in the establishment of Afreximbank. As President of the African Development Bank from May 1985 to August 1995, he is credited with championing the establishment of several major continental institutions to drive the process of economic growth and structural transformation of African economies.
Jumia Grabs Opportunity for Black Friday Deals
Black Friday is a concept that originated in the United States, but the yearly retail fever has had a popularity boom across Africa in recent years, with customers moving to take advantage of the best deals that retailers have available.
Jumia, which is a marketplace with its focus placed on Africa quickly grabbed this opportunity when it first introduced the Black Friday event about nine years ago across its markets in Africa, focusing mainly on Egypt and Cairo which are the company’s top two cities when considering volume of orders.
Since its inception, the company has witnessed staggering levels of success with the event, and company data reveals that the love which consumers have for Black Friday has been increasing across the continent every year.
During the 2020 Black Friday event, the top sellers on the Jumia platform saw a 141% year-on-year increase in the amount of items sold, with one out of three clicks on average being a new customer. The company also said that it witnessed an increase in brand appetite across every one of Jumia’s 10 markets during last year’s sale, which lasted every Friday in November.
The trend is expected to continue this year’s version of Jumia’s Black Friday, as it is running from November 5 until November 30.
The company which is based in Nigeria has entered into partnerships with major brands like Adidas, HP, Unilever and Diageo, as well as with thousands of sellers in order to provide consumers the best deals on a very wide range of products.
The CEO of Jumia Nigeria, Massimiliano Spalazzi told Lagos-based Vanguard that the Black Friday programme has been a success every year, and is the biggest sale of the year.
He also stated that the 2021 Black Friday campaign will place focus on strengthening the company’s position as a brand within the African market, and providing support to the sellers.
NQR Payment Solution Excites Nigerians: Everyone Can Now Pay Sharp Sharp
Since the NQR payment solution was introduced to the Nigerian market in March of this year, it has reached millions of Nigerians across major markets in different states. Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kano, Uyo, and Portharcourt are just a few of the states that have witnessed the fast seamless, and reliable NQR payment solution.
Business owners and customers across Nigeria have embraced NQR en masse as a result of the market penetration drive, citing the convenience, speed, and reliability of the payment option.
The NQR Payment Solution is a secure QR-code-based payments and collections platform that allows customers and business owners to accept and make payments for goods and services. The payment system will bring together all of the country’s closed QR code schemes for a more consistent user experience and faster digital adoption.
The campaign was led by several popular celebrities who thrilled the market crowds and showcased how the NQR works. Mercy Johnson, Mercy Aigbe, Odunlade Adekola, Real Warri Pikin, Saddiq Sani Saddiq, Bisola Aiyeola, and Nedu were a few of the ambassadors for NQR. They encouraged business owners to sign up for NQR, and encouraged customers to make payments with NQR.
The NQR payment solution team recently toured Southern Nigeria, with comedians Edo Pikin and Real Warri Pikin leading the train to sensitize the people about how the NQR merchant app works and how customers can #PaySharpSharp with live demonstrations.
NQR agents also went through the markets educating both business owners and customers about NQR’s benefits. Representatives from several commercial banks were also on ground to address business owners’ concerns. Everyone learned about the NQR payment system and had the opportunity to test it out as well as express their satisfaction with it.
NQR is now available in a store near you.
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