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South Africa eyes golden opportunities with China at G20

By Andile Munyai, International Business student at Beijing Foreign Studies University and cofounder/Foreign Partner of LeYa, education start up company based in Beijing. He is from South Africa.

China hasset up a blueprint on formal dialogue for the 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit,"breaking a new path for growth," marking the first G20 summit tofocus on midterm development of global growth.

The paceof the technological evolution has accelerated over the last decade. The use ofeveryday technologies had transformed with major adaptations through theliberalization of information and technology.

In SouthAfrica, there's been a surge in technological literacy on account of the spaceof Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which can be grouped into:Economics, Business and Social, working hand-in-hand. For the new economy,information and knowledge have become the most important factors forproduction.

ICTenables economic growth by broadening access to technologies such as high-speedInternet, mobile broadband and computing. By 2020, ICT is expected tocontribute 8.7 percent of total GDP (gross domestic product) growth.

The poorcan benefit as well, since ICT is well-positioned to build a sociallysustainable future. Telecom and broadband internet services can get deliveredto remote areas for helping small businesses. Meanwhile, unserved areas couldbenefit from greater exposure.

SouthAfrica remains one of the leading communications providers on the continentwith companies such as Vodocom and MTN boasting of over 176 million subscribersacross 16 Africa nations and 6 in the Middle East. However while these servicesare available in urban areas, they are not entirely accessible due to highprices and lack of infrastructure.

Whilethese companies have assisted in advancing the continent with technologies andplatforms that connect the world to Africa, some challenges faced by SouthAfrica and Africa are related to policy restrictions and limited competition.Limited competition has also attributed to the slow pace of literacy inInformation technology. South Africans are transforming economic and socialactivities through the usage of ICT particularly through greater access to theinternet, which will impact efficiency and service delivery.

All thiswill depend on issues addressed at global initiatives such as the G20. SouthAfrica with its impressive infrastructure and human capital would gain frominvesting in upgraded ICT.

Newreports from "eTransform Africa" revealed how breakthroughs such asthe use of a dual SIM card cellular phones or using mobile technologies forremittance payments – have been extended across the continent and beyond,marking Africa as a larger market for mobile subscriptions than the UnitedStates and European Union.

Servicedeliveries are essential to South Africans particularly the provision of water,electricity and education can be fast-paced through innovations from advancedtechnologies. However, ICT within a South African context has found itselfbehind the curve, both globally and in comparison to the rest of Africa.

SouthAfrica has lost its status as the continental leader in internet and broadbandconnectivity. The pricing of services and equipment remain a significantbarrier to expanded use of Technology. Policy constraints, regulatorychallenges and limited competition are other obstacles.

ICT inSouth Africa will transform economic and social activities, as well as howcommunities and individuals function together. Its impact on each area ofservice delivery will depend on how uptake can be addressed. The G20 summitwill give an opportunity to all participating nations to build stronger sustainablerelations based on a global platform.

The summitneeds a cohesive strategy to ensure the diffusion of ICTs in all areas of ourcommunities and the broader economy. South Africa is working with China towardsits industrialization plan as well as encouraging China to increase itsinvestments in the country.

SouthAfrica stands to benefit from Beijing's commitment of encouraging enterprisesto increase investment in South Africa and promote value-added services to thesource of raw materials.

This ecosystemof networks, services, applications, content and innovation can supporteconomic growth, development and competitiveness, create decent work, andcontribute to nation-building and social cohesion, as well as local, regionaland national integration.

The addedbenefits act as the enabler, instant online day-to-day interactions withindividuals, firms may boost investor confidence. The digitalization of contentand ICT applications can make it easier for our citizens to obtain informationusing different languages.

Innovationssuch as mobile government services – delivered via mobile phones – would growand converge with more traditional e-government services, which are already inexistence, however a stumbling block could be that a digitally-connected SouthAfrica faces the rising fissure of a digital divide.

Thisrefers to the gap between those who have access to service and the demand fromthose who are excluded on account of unavailability or prohibitive costs, butin South Africa, a distinction must be drawn.

Recentgovernment initiatives offered free wifi-zones in Tshwane Province, includingopen public spaces, educational institutions, schools, clinics and libraries,ensuring that 50% of locals are within walking distance from Wi-Fi zones.

The TshwaneWi-Fi project has serviced over 6 million devices, placing it among thecontinents largest network services. Yet, such initiatives have failed to reachremote areas, reinforcing the social and geographical divide.

Where itis lacking, there is opportunity. Infrastructure can accommodate more SouthAfricans and other G20 nationals in rural areas. A synergy from private andpublic sectors has proven effective. A panel discussion held at the AfricanDevelopment Bank (AfDB) headquarters in Abidjan focused on project financingand frameworks favorable for private and public partnerships (PPPs) in thetransport sector.

The panelconcluded that investment in the maintenance of existing infrastructure alongwith climate resilient structures would be an imperative step for Africa toposition itself as the next land of economic opportunity.

The AfDBfunded projects in the transport sector to include the SANRAL Road Network inSouth Africa; Lagos Lekki Port Project in Nigeria and Dakar-Diamniadio TollRoad in Senegal to upgrade interconnectivity.

Morecompetitive efficient markets and effective regulations can enable operators tomeet demand for affordable services, reducing the number of households orindividuals requiring subsidies to pay for services.

Improvingequitable access for enhanced ICT services in South Africa would requireimplementation to stimulate demand. Strategies can improve e-literacy throughbasic and secondary schooling, tertiary education, adult education and suppliertraining.

Suchinitiatives would support the production of multilingual, relevant and localcontent for public programming and information services, including educationand mobile government services and applications to ensure ICT will delivercontent and applications that are relevant to the wider community in ourcountries.

ICT can beused as a tool to fight poverty, increase employment, education and encourageentrepreneurship in South Africa/Africa and contributing nations. Chinawelcomes more developing nations to participate in the G20 to make the Hangzhousummit a success story for developing countries.

As aglobal citizen, African national and foreign student/entrepreneurs hope thesummit would signal to the international community that the G2O not onlybelongs to its 20 member states, but for the world as to enhance broader commondevelopment for all humanity.

AndileMunyai is a Internnational Business student at the Beijing Foreign StudiesUniversity majoring in International Marketing. Andile is also thecofounder/Foreign Partner of a Education start up company based in Beijingcalled LeYa.

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