Rapid digital transformation in African markets – from increased access to internet connectivity to a growing adoption of e-commerce – is redefining the rules of the game for doing business. In the wake of COVID-19, national governments have proposed ambitious digital infrastructure and ecosystem investments. There is an opportunity for the growth of digital economies – which include electronic and mobile-enabled payments, services, and trade – to strengthen economic inclusion and democratize economic opportunity, particularly for the smallest businesses and entrepreneurs.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up approximately 90% of firms across sub-Saharan Africa. While many governments indicate their openness to engaging with the private sector on developing the policy frameworks to govern burgeoning digital economies, there are few clear paths to support the inclusion of SMEs in policy conversations or initiatives to shape the digital ecosystem around them. Without dedicated attention to SME participation, there is a risk that the opportunities presented by digital transformation will fail to deliver widespread economic empowerment, inclusion, and development.
Public-private cooperation is essential to implementing solutions that meaningfully support SME resiliency during COVID-19 and an inclusive digital economy. CIPE’s regional Digital Economy pilot program in Africa centers around ensuring the inclusion of private sector voices from Ethiopia and Kenya in national and regional digital economy policy dialogue. To encourage cross-sector collaboration and policy cohesion, CIPE is bringing together representatives from the private sector, civil society, government, and local think tanks in each country. Through local research teams and cross-sectoral working groups, CIPE will support the production of policy briefs and sector-specific studies to help guide formal dialogues and streamline collaboration between business and government.
Stay on the lookout for project updates on CIPE Africa’s Digital Economy regional program.