The issue of development in Africa is one that needs to be addressed from various different angles. That’s the contention of Isabel dos Santos, one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in Africa. The businesswoman spoke on this concept at length during a recent panel in front of the European Parliament on “Africa and Emerging Technology.” The conversation revolved around aspects of digital technology, telecommunications, environmental impact, agriculture and more. A closer look at some of the highlights from the day, outlined below, is an informative glance at some of the most pressing issues concerning African development in the modern era.
Life experience and background
One of the reasons that Isabel dos Santos was asked to speak with members of the European Parliament is her noted success in a wide range of business endeavors spanning a multitude of geolocations in Africa and around the globe. As the chairwoman of Unitel, the largest telecommunications company in Angola, she has a notable presence in one of the most critical areas of development at present — the continued refinement and operation of communication infrastructure. In addition, the entrepreneur has also been recognized for her work in other industries, as well, including education, finance, and construction. By having a firm grounding in such a wide range of fields, the businesswoman is able to speak in depth on many of the key issues affecting the continent today.
In addition to her professional experience, dos Santos brings a host of international familiarity to her daily operations as both head of a business and an agent for development. This stems in part from the multinational status of many of the companies in which she is involved, but also is due to her education, which took place largely in England. It was there that she attended both primary and secondary school, and would later go on to attend university at King’s College in London. During her time at the latter she studied electrical engineering, which would help form the basis for her focus on technology later in life.
Technology related to agriculture
One of the key aspects of development touched upon by the businesswoman was the importance of technology in supporting developmental efforts. A pressing area that she identified as needing this type of support was in the field of agriculture, which she said could directly benefit from emerging technology if it were applied to the diversification of the economy. According to the line of thought, a fully developed and diverse economy could work for the benefit of all, not just specifically those working in the tech industry. She also noted that investments in technology in the short term could provide these types of benefits in the long term.
Of course, it is true that industries such as agriculture that aren’t specifically focused on technology as their product still use technology to achieve their goals. Addressing this idea, dos Santos said that, “If we are to be competitive in Agriculture in Africa we will have to use cutting edge agricultural technology or some sort of technology in order to have the right production costs, to be competitive.” She went to say that, “I really think it’s an issue about educating the leadership and the people around so that they don’t get so scared when they hear these words.” This idea of familiarizing people with technology and the ideas of utilizing it in development of the economy was a theme throughout the entrepreneur’s address (Crunchbase).
Improvements to quality of life
In much the same way that technology was singled out as a contributor to industries that are not directly involved in the tech sector, other aspects of society were also highlighted by dos Santos for their impact on the economy. One key takeaway is the importance of stability in government and the continuity of the rule of law. Though this is an area in which some African nations have historically struggled, the businesswoman underscored the importance of sound legal framework when promoting a country’s economy. Part of this focus was due to the idea that without the assurance of due process and the protection of assets, investors would be understandably hesitant to bring needed capital to many planned projects.
This concept of promoting tangential fields to help improve economic well being also touches on areas such as safeguarding the environment. Speaking to this, the entrepreneur noted that “We have to promote a better life for all here in our home countries and work with a focus on people and the sustainability of the environment.” On the topic of education, the businesswoman highlighted the key role that it plays in so many aspects of modern life. “Quality education, innovation and technology will enable us to grow and eliminate the current gap between Africa and the rest of the world,” said dos Santos.
Telecommunications as a model
In part due to the entrepreneur’s role as a leader in the field of telecommunications, the idea that advancements in that area could be used as a roadmap for other development was ever-present. This could be seen in the ways in which the success of mobile communication technology was promoted in the address, especially in the historical context of a lack of communication throughout the continent. This viewpoint, which draws upon the long history of infrastructure failures, noted that the advent of mobile phones allowed for a communication infrastructure to arise without the need for costly phone lines.
As developments in technology allow for future innovations along the lines of mobile phones, other elements of the economy could be similarly affected. One key area that could benefit could be the use of public transportation in some of Africa’s large urban cities. Though this has been an area that has typically been lacking, technological developments could help to bridge this gap and bring African transportation into the twenty-first century, a development that has the potential to benefit a huge segment of the continent’s population.
Though development in Africa is a hugely complicated issue that still has much room for improvement, there are some undeniable advances that have been made in the field. With new technologies leading the way in a number of areas, many Africans are seeing their quality of life improve in ways that have never been encountered before. As business leaders such as Isabel dos Santos lend their voice to calls for new insights into development, many see the potential for a continued advancements on the near horizon.
More about Isabel dos Santos at http://www.itwebafrica.com/ict-and-governance/523-africa/245313-africa-has-to-become-digital-unitels-dos-santos-tells-europe