Technology is helping to change the economic, social, and industrial status quo in many non-traditional markets, like sub-Saharan Africa. And it has led to major benefits in health care, energy production, food production and distribution, as well as the revolution in social interaction and communication caused by the advent of smartphones and the roll-out of 4 and 5G networks.
Digitalisation, in particular, has become the watchword of the 21st century, and one beneficial side effect of the global pandemic is that it has forced its acceleration, so that even the most traditional establishments and industries now must have on online offering.
Some have been faster to adapt than others, and those that have done so – like the online casino business often have first mover advantage. For example, whilst traditional bricks and mortars casinos suffered in 2020 because their doors were shuttered for months on end, many online casinos – casinoadviser.co.za – experienced unprecedented growth and record profits as millions of existing and new players turned to them as a source of entertainment and profit as a way of alleviating boredom during national lockdowns.
The digital revolution is also offering learning opportunities that did not exist even a few years ago.
For example, an increasing number of Africans, a growing number of whom are women, are learning software development. And it is also bring online schooling to millions.
Cashless payment solutions are another sector which has seen explosive growth in emerging markets. Beginning with cheques it has now evolved into an array of new payment methods such as mobile wallets, wearables, Google, Apple and Android Pay, and QR codes to name but a few.
It is estimated that two-thirds of the African population will have access to a smartphone by 2025, which will make cashless payments more and more a fact of everyday life.
And this fits with the changes to social behaviour caused by Covid-19. Physical money has been proven to be one of the most contagious surfaces of all when it comes to the deadly virus, not least because it can pass through many pairs of hands in a short period of time. And cash points and ATMs where cash is dispensed represent a potential super spreader location.
Governments and central banks have recognised this by increasing the authorised amount for cashless payments, as evidenced by the fact that the volume of digital payments has increased substantially in many countries since the prevalence of Covid-19 first became known.
And then there are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Once the preserve of a few, alt-currencies are becoming increasingly mainstream as more and more retailers begin to offer them as a means of payment and settling transactions.
And, in a continent where there is a deep distrust of government interference in the banking industry, peer to peer exchanges may offer the way forward. It is perhaps not surprising that the second largest Bitcoin market in the world is Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the blockchain technology hind Bitcoin is helping to improve revenue collection by the tax authorities in the country, with the introduction of an e-filing system by the tax service resulting in increased compliance by companies and made payments easier.
Given that a 2020 report listed Nigeria as 159 out of 190 countries when it came to evaluating the efficiency of its tax system, anything that can be done to improve that is likely to have a major benefit on public finances.