ADDIS ABABA- Digitization is the best opportunities for African countries to lift themselves from the trap of poverty they find themselves in at present, so confirmed Economic Commission for Africa. The COVID-19 has hit hard the economies of many African countries and led their respective citizens to poverty, but some countries like Rwanda and Togo have used digitization to keep their economies running.
Speaking at the launching ceremony of a series of Pan-African peer exchange on the benefits of responsible digital government payments, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Vera Songwe said the pandemic had a huge toll on African economies with GDP growth estimated to have dropped from 3.3% in 2019 to -2.6% in 2020. However, it is anticipated that growth would return to 3.3% in 2021.
"Digitizing tax payments and related processes can raise additional resources for African governments to fight COVID-19 and help countries back to growth, what can be accomplished on the continent through digitization of government payments," Songwe said. "As economies digitalize, digital payments and e-commerce multiply thereby accelerating recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, sustaining development goals, and facilitating achievement through taxes and wages, these are benefits we get," she added.
Cina Lawson, Togo's Postal Affairs and Digital Economy Minister said his country is using digital transfer during the pandemic and have built a USSD platform in 10 days, and people who have registered didn't need internet connection to connect. "We had registered 1. 6 million people on this platform. From on boarding to receiving cash, all is digital. It takes a minute from on boarding to receive cash," she said. The platform guaranteed transparency as transactions were traceable. The country is using the same platform to register citizens for COVID-19 vaccinations she noted.
Rwanda's Minister of State, National Treasury, Richard Tusabe on his part shared his country's experience with regard to digitization and 'Ejoheza savings scheme', an inclusive scheme which targets both salaried and non-salaried workers and has a social component. He said about 95% of Rwandan citizens are not covered in any pension scheme hence the need for the savings scheme which came in handy during the pandemic.
The two ministers have shared experiences and practices to keep learning from each other's experiences in using digital innovations to improve the productivity of businesses and ensure positive economy-wide benefits. Ms. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director, Better Than Cash Alliance, based at the United Nations said the two countries' experiences is what we need. She lauded the partnership with the ECA to launch the series as it is a unique opportunity for governments to convene and collaborate with each other.
BY MISGANAW ASNAKE