Podcast 🎧 & blog: Digital innovations in Africa
For this episode of the Digital Government Podcast, we figuratively fly with our microphones to Africa. Specifically, to Kenya and Nigeria – where winners of the first Africa D4D Journalism Competition are based. 175 journalists from 35 countries participated, signalling a great response to the call submissions made by the African Union – European Union (AU-EU) Digital for Development (D4D) Hub project.
Labour markets and tech talent, agriculture and climate issues, telehealth and maternal care. These were the topics of the articles that won the first three prizes, all with digital tools and technology as the common denominator. We caught up with the three winners – Daniel Adeyemi (Nigeria), Wesley Langat (Kenya), and Beth Karuana (Kenya) – to hear from their own voice about their work and the topics addressed.
Adeyemi: What does it take to solve Africa’s tech talent issue
Daniel Adeyemi, Senior Writer at TechCabal, bagged the first prize in the competition. This will give him also the possibility to join us at the upcoming e-Governance Conference 2022 in Tallinn, in just a month from now.
His feature “Solving Africa’s tech talent problem: All hands on deck” revolves around how tech companies and startups in Africa are trying to solve a continent-wide problem with hiring tech talent. “The prevalence of talent scarcity highlights a fascinating irony about Africa: despite having a high rate of unemployed and underemployed persons, businesses on the continent struggle to find the right talent to fill in key roles,” he tells us in our chat. On par with this, there is an intersecting element of geolocation and skills polarization. For example, over 50% of Africa’s software developers are based in just five countries – namely, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and Morocco.
It is only natural that, with the lack of a coordinated and comprehensive cross-national strategy, initiatives on solving such problem outline a variety of distinct and private sector-driven approaches. Through real-life examples of companies and individuals spanning beyond the borders of Nigeria, the feature provides key insights into Africa’s salient labour market issues with demand-offer mismatches on skills, and what is being done about it.
Langat: Tech to the rescue of Kenyan farmers
At the meeting point of environment, agriculture, and technology, the Africa D4D Journalism Competition awarded freelance journalist Wesley Langat with the second prize. In his summer 2021 submission “Kenyan farmers tap apps to ride out COVID-19 and climate storm”, Langat delves deeper into how Kenyan farmers could use – and started to do so – digital tools and apps to overcome the standstill in movement of goods and people triggered by the pandemic and relative containment measures.
Published by Thomson Reuters Foundation, for which Langat regularly writes, the article interestingly focuses on technology in a sector that, generally, is regarded as fairly slow in taking up digital tools – agriculture. In parallel with the obvious increased utility that apps accessed by Kenyan farmers brought to users, it is worth noting that issues of connectivity or awareness seem to have not represented a serious challenge. This is due to the sufficient spread of mobile broadband connectivity across Kenya, and satisfactory availability per household of digital devices. Moreover, companies that launched such apps effectively targeted their potential user groups, and some training at the local level proved enough to help Kenyans tap into the potential of digital farming.
Karuana: COVID-19, the digital shift, and a push for maternal healthcare
Completing the podium, Nairobi-based health and science journalist Beth Karuana pitched a submission on how telehealth promoted safer maternal care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.
“The reason why I chose to cover this topic is pregnant women’s increased vulnerability to COVID-19. I wanted to understand how governmental health professionals were helping or making sure that safe maternal health would continue to be provided amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Karuana says. “I found very interesting to see that technology holds great potential to transform maternal and child health, especially in developing countries like Kenya,” she explains, considering issues with high maternal death rates or access to proper healthcare in rural areas.
The pandemic pushed for a change in the direction of increased usage, but the challenges are those of any new sectoral deployment of digital tools. In this case, as professionals revealed in interviews with Karuana, telehealth was mainly used for referrals rather than actual treatment. But it all highlights an encouraging point – that “In telehealth, there is still plenty of untapped potential,” Karuana points out.
Interested in more digital transformation case studies of African countries?
Join the discussion ‘Laying Ground for Digital Services: Case Studies from Africa’ featuring Khaled El-Attar – Vice Minister, Egypt and Afiss Bileoma Director of Departement, ASSI, Benin at the e-Governance Conference on 10 May 2022!