Africa’s burgeoning youth population, which promises for it to boast the largest workforce globally by 2040, provides significant opportunity for the continent’s growth. To achieve this will require that the public and private sector work together to ensure that Africa is driving behind a single vision. That is why, as a Pan African mobile operator with a geographic breadth spanning 17 markets in Africa, MTN Group stood behind the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (“AfCFTA”) secretariat as sponsor for its recent business forum during 16-18 April in Cape Town under the theme Acceleration of Implementation of the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA is the flagship project of the African Union’s Ambition 2063 and has, to date, been signed by 54 nations and ratified by 43. Through this avenue the AU aims to deliver the largest free-trade area globally while achieving inclusive and sustainable development across the continent. Through fora such as this the AfCFTA secretariat convenes business leaders and policy makers from across the continent to share their thoughts and recommendations on how Africa’s potential can be harnessed through the AfCFTA.
Realising the growth and development potential associated with the AfCFTA will require strong and sustainable partnerships between the public and private sector. It will therefore come as no surprise that MTN Group’s strategy, which is anchored on building the largest and most valuable platforms with a clear focus on Africa, recognises the importance of engaging in selective partnerships that will leverage our brand, the most valuable in Africa.Nompilo Morafo, Chief Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Officer, MTN Group
With a vision to lead digital solutions for Africa’s progress, MTN is of the belief that digital transformation can play a critical role in accelerating the realisation of the AfCFTA and intra-Africa trade. This was demonstrated clearly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic where movement was restricted yet economies could not stop. During this period digital infrastructure was a key enabler of connectivity and productivity globally. In Africa too, there was a significant increase in the demand for data and fintech solutions, which benefitted from the investments we made in our infrastructure and networks.
Morafo, who spoke on a panel that took into consideration the current geo-economic context, referenced climate change and conflict in the Ukraine, together with COVID-19 as the three C’s impacting Africa. During this panel she highlighted the 97% infrastructure deficit in trade-enabling sectors and noted the importance of extending digital and financial inclusion as a positive force for the transformation of individuals, companies and society.
For MTN the infrastructure deficit is an opportunity to support its nation states and build back better through investment in enabling infrastructure. To this end MTN has a target of rolling out 135 000km of proprietary infrastructure across Africa. This will enhance the critical backbone that enables seamless communication, transactions and trade across the continent.
MTN is of the view that infrastructure should not only be seen as the tangible roads and fibre networks that are built to enhance trade. Reducing the “soft infrastructure” or skills deficit across the continent is a critical contributer towards meeting the goals of the AfCFTA. In support of this, the Group has in place the MTN Group Skills Academy whose aim is to ensure 60% of youth and adults across its markets have a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills by 2025. This is aligned to the AU’s Digital Transformation strategy and the United Nations’ Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
In addition to being a key driver for closing the infrastructure gap across the continent, the AfCFTA provides an important opportunity to harmonise the policies and regulations of the continent, to ease the movement of people across and between markets thus benefitting from the cross pollination of ideas and encouraging skills transfer as well as driving the movement of goods and services. Whilst there is still much more to be done, I am excited about the opportunities that face us, more especially the Protocol on Digital Trade which will create efficiencies across our industries.Nompilo Morafo, Chief Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Officer, MTN Group