‘Future lies in digital economy’

THE future of business, development and wealth creation now depends on digital economies, President Mnangagwa said in his opening address during a workshop focusing on “Unlocking New Investment and Services Markets” at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) here.

The discussion, which took place yesterday, the third day of the WEF, saw global leaders discuss the need for resources to be channelled towards building digital economies.

It emerged during discussions that vast sums are available for investments in productive investments in emerging markets, including the development of digital economies of the modern world, but the capital is not flowing into areas where it is needed most due to regulatory bottlenecks.

The workshop explored how public-private sector collaboration, including a new global investment alliance, and digital foreign direct investment projects can accelerate the scale and impact of investment in emerging markets.

Quoting the 2021 Digital Economy Report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), President Mnangagwa said: “Data has become a key strategic asset for creation of both wealth and value in trade and development.”

Citing innovations such as blockchain technology, artificial intelligence and cloud based systems, President Mnangagwa said there was a wave of disruptive technologies that required “both government and business to retool their digital platforms”.

He added that the digital economy had to be embraced by all countries, both developed and underdeveloped.

“For that reason (as Zimbabwe) we are attempting to embrace e-government, e- commerce, e-education, and e-construction.

“Everything is now digital hence it is important that in particular, developing countries like ourselves in Africa have to put more focus now in our institutions of higher learning, our universities, in order to develop a digital economy for the future.”

United Nations secretary general, Mr António Guterres, in his foreword to the 2021 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, said the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the process of digital transformation and added urgency

for governments to respond.

“A key challenge is how to govern and harness the surge in digital data for the global good, Mr Guterres said.

President Mnangagwa said although the Covid-19 pandemic had been devastating, it had come with some positives.

“We learnt how to live under those (Covid-19) challenges, we have learnt a lot under these conditions, conducting virtual meetings in industry, governments; even in the defence and security sector we have embraced technology.

“Therefore, whilst we don’t need another wave of the pandemic, what has happened has taught us how to live under those challenges.”

He, however, said the African continent had a long way to go in terms of fully adopting the digital economy.

There was a need, President Mnangagwa said, to embrace each other between those who are advanced in adopting technology and those yet to do so.

The President said if developing countries were left to go it alone, the development process would be very slow.

“So we need to be embraced by those who are ahead of us,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an earlier roundtable discussion, which he contributed to and co- chaired, President Mnangagwa said the African continent’s priority today was to secure food security since its regions had enough fertile land to feed its people.

Speaking during a discussion on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) running under the theme, “Friends of the African Continental Free Trade Area”, President Mnangagwa said to achieve food security on the continent, Africa needed to adopt the “eat what you kill” philosophy as well as not to “reinvent the wheel”.

This philosophy, according to President Mnangagwa, will work if there is co-operation from those countries that have developed, industrialised and mechanised agriculture and have access to that technology.

His comments come as the world is currently facing serious food shortages, brought by changing climate and supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The later has sent global food prices skyrocketing.

Last week, UN chief Guterres warned of “the spectre of a global food shortage in the coming months” if there is no urgent international action.

In an earlier session at the WEF, International Monetary Fund managing director, Ms Kristalina Georgieva, said “the anxiety about access to food at a reasonable price globally is hitting the roof” as food prices continue to go up.

According to UN figures, the number of severely food-insecure people has doubled in the past two years, from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today.

Africa can, however, achieve food security if there is co-operation among nations, according to President Mnangagwa. Herald

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