OSIANE 2021, the International Exhibition of Information Technology and Innovation

Bearing in mind that it was lagging behind several regions in Africa in terms of digital infrastructure, innovation, and internet and PC penetration, the Central Africa region has begun doing some sort of a soul searching, to assess its weaknesses and consequently design policies and strategies aiming to build a better ICT ecosystem.

It is in this spirit that key players operating in the region’s public and private digital sector will convene on 27-30 April 2021 in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, under the umbrella of OSIANE 2021, the International Exhibition of Information Technology and Innovation.

Participants will include bankers, financiers, insurers, entrepreneurs, and academics. They are expected to discuss, among others, the impact of digital on businesses, digital transactions, electronic money, funding of innovative projects, the promotion of digital skills, and the best prospects of building dynamic digital ecosystems.

Parts of the conference will be held virtually due to the Covid-19 crisis, the organisers said. The conference’s theme is "Co-construction of our future”. Co-construction is a distinctive approach where the emphasis is on collaborative working or partnership.

"I’m sure the region suffers from a lack of good leadership in this field. I mean digital-savvy leaders capable of taking us through a real digital transformation. Besides, the lack of political will from governments to support SMEs keen to go fully digital is another major problem. Working together as a region is key to achieving a true digital revolution in Central Africa,” entrepreneur Freddy Mavinga told BizTech Africa.

However, for computer science Cecilia Eale, the region will not achieve a successful digital transformation without focusing on digital upskilling and solving the low internet and PC penetration. As of January 2021, Central Africa ranked fourth out of five regions (26%) in the list of internet penetration on the continent, lying behind Southern Africa (69%), North Africa (56%) and West Africa (42%), but surging ahead of East Africa (24%), according to Statista figures.

Only 7.7% of households in Africa have a computer at home, according to Statista, while the European Union countries accounted for a PC penetration of 83% in 2019, according to the European Commission figures. The Central African region includes eight countries, namely Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé & Principe. Its population is estimated at 184 million.

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