Isabel dos Santos tells European Parliament: “Africa has to become digital”

Isabel dos Santos spoke yesterday at the European Parliament about the emerging technology in Africa and the importance of technological development applied to the diversification of economy and the growth of sectors such as Banking and Agriculture.

“A huge challenge for Africa is to know how is it going to be digital. We still don’t have that answer. To be competitive, we need to use technology and, above all, we need to educate people so they can use that technology”.

The chairwoman of Unitel, the leading mobile operator in Angola, was invited to speak at the Africa Summit 2019, an event that is happening today in Brussels with the purpose of expanding the cooperation and to deepen the relationship, as well as explore the opportunities for partnerships between the European Union and African Nations.

Speaking at the panel dedicated to “Africa and Emerging Technology”, Isabel dos Santos said that “after the mobile revolution, the next revolution in Africa will be digital. Soon, there will be more sales and transactions through e-commerce than through traditional stores, and for the first time many Africans will have a bank account and it will be thanks to digital banking.”

According to the businesswoman, the fast population growth and the African Megacities are a major challenge: "Comfortable, safe and affordable public transportation is still an unsolved question for most African cities.”

“It is imperative to apply technology and urban planning to build smart cities and improve quality of life of our people and optimize costs”.

"We need support to implement proper planning, to build cities that are good places live, equipped with good public transport systems, and where technology contributes to improve the quality of life, to lower living costs, to better manage the environmental resources, and the use of our soil."

Addressing the example of the Agriculture sector, Isabel 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 (…) and 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”.

During her speech, Isabel dos Santos also stressed that in order to work on the technologic development in Africa there are fundamental areas such the stability and continuity of the legal framework when attracting investment and job creation. These should be considered as a priority, so that the continent becomes appealing and able to retain young talent.

"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," she said.

The businesswoman also mentioned the importance of quality in Education as a key to the development and growth of emerging nations, stressing that "quality education, innovation and technology will enable us to grow and eliminate the current gap between Africa and the rest of the world."

She also spoke about some examples of development in Angola's recent history and how technological developments have had an essential impact on the reconstruction, GDP growth and accelerated growth of the country.

While highlighting the role of companies such as mobile operator Unitel, which launched a partnership with Google for a submarine fibre optic cable linking Africa, Brazil and America, Isabel dos Santos also mentioned the importance of supporting small businesses, and promoting local production, through purchasing and procurement in the domestic market to: "create more and greater opportunities for Africans, to meet their needs,  and contribute to their well-being, we need to satisfy the expectations of our consumers and deliver the same standard and quality level like any other consumer, in any part of the world”.

She also added that technology was used by Unitel to help combat and prevent malaria in Angola, as well as the protection of the Palanca Negra Ginga. 

Africa Summit is organized by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and is intended to exchange best practice between the EU and African nations in key areas, such as democracy, security, economy, health related issues, emergent technologies, the use of development aid, and developing a future relationship on trade cooperation.

Isabel dos Santos spoke as chairwoman at Unitel, Angola's largest mobile operator. Founded in 1998 and officially launched on March 8, 2001, its core activity is to deliver mobile voice and internet services. As the leading mobile operator in Angola, Unitel was the main responsible for the implementation of the mobile telecommunication network in the country and it was one of the first operators to commercially launch the 4G network in Africa – a decisive input to guarantee the best quality in access and transmission across the continent. With more than 11 million clients and about 3,000 employees in Angola, it is one of the largest private employers in the country.

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