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Cambridge Global Challenges


Delegates from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are in Johannesburg this week for the 10th BRICS summit. The theme – ‘BRICS in Africa: collaboration for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the fourth industrial revolution’ – suggests a big focus on what these five countries can do to support digital transformation in Africa.

Despite obvious differences, African economies and India have faced many similar challenges to digital transformation: low internet connectivity; the digital divide; a skills-mismatch. Karishma Banga compares the performances of several large-scale government inititative in India, Ghana and Kenya and identifies three key components of a successful move towards a digital economy: 

Develop a national digital identification system

Having a digital identity is the very basis of functioning in a digital economy. It is a key enabler of access to government benefits, cross-border authentication, digital payments and e-commerce growth.

Invest in building – and sharing – digital infrastructure

Several large-scale initiatives have developing India’s digital infrastructure at their core. The ‘Digital India’ programme, for example, has brought internet connectivity to 250,000 gram panchayats (village councils) in rural India by laying optical fibres across the country.

Take a targeted approach towards skills development

The evidence shows that sub-Saharan African economies reap lower benefits from digitalisation compared to other countries, probably because their workforces don’t have as many of the relevant skills. India’s experience suggests that Africa needs to develop a targeted approach to skills development, where policies encourage innovation and entrepreneurship to meet local demand.


To read the full article by Karishma Banga please visit the ODI website.



Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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