Chinese technology, expertise helps advance Africa’s digital transformation-Xinhua

This aerial photo taken on August 10, 2023 shows the Digital Delta Data Center in Gaborone, Botswana. (CJIC Botswana branch/distribution via Xinhua)

“China has actively participated in building Africa’s Internet infrastructure and provided ICT support to help African countries accelerate their integration into the global digital economy,” said a Tanzanian professor.

NAIROBI, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) — From building Internet infrastructure to launching e-commerce and mobile payment to creating digital entertainment platforms, Chinese companies have actively participated in Africa’s digital transformation, helping the world’s second most populous continent catch up with other regions of the world.

INTERNET INFRASTRUCTURE

In December 2022, high-speed internet connection was made available for the first time on Uhuru Peak, the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, at almost 5,900 meters above sea level, as well as in camps and lodges along the way.

Visitors and climbers have since been able to share posts on social media. More importantly, they can now call for help in the event of an emergency.

“It used to be dangerous to climb when there was no network coverage on the mountain. Now we can check information about weather and routes at any time when going mountain climbing. It increases tourists’ sense of security,” says Sebastian Mbilinyi, a local guide.

As part of the Tanzanian government’s central national ICT Broadband Backbone Network project, the Mount Kilimanjaro internet network was built by Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation in partnership with Chinese technology giant Huawei, with the latter supplying most of the telecommunications equipment.

Botswana’s Digital Delta Data Center, which is carried out by the Botswana branch of China Jiangxi International Economic and Technical Cooperation Co., Ltd. (CJIC), is another case of Chinese companies’ involvement in African countries’ digital infrastructure construction.

Located in the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone, the country’s capital, the data center in a two-storey building equipped with ancillary facilities will be the country’s largest data center when delivered at the end of this year.

Zhu Yahan, the project manager, said the data center is critical to ensuring Botswana’s network data security. “Internet speed is also expected to be greatly increased, which will promote the development of the digital economy in the country.”

“This center is a facility that we believe will transform the ICT ecosystem in Botswana,” said Keabetswe Segole, Acting CEO of BoFiNet.

Compared to other places in the world, the internet infrastructure in Africa is still weak. The report “Measuring digital development: Facts and Figures 2022” published by the International Telecommunications Union shows that two thirds of the world’s population use the Internet, while the average for Africa is only 40 percent of the population.

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Since the founding of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, Chinese companies have helped African countries build a communication network of 150,000 km and a network service covering nearly 700 million user terminals, according to “China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals” white paper.

“China has actively participated in building Africa’s Internet infrastructure and provided ICT support to help African countries accelerate their integration into the global digital economy,” said Humphrey Moshi, professor of economics at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Kilimall employees work at a warehouse in Mlolongo, Kenya, November 10, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yahui)

E-TRADE COOPERATION

As the “Black Friday” shopping season approaches, the Kilimall headquarters located on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is already in full swing. The shelves, which are several meters high, are filled with a wide range of goods from China and other countries.

Established in 2014 by an information technology company based in Changsha in China’s Hunan Province, Kilimall has now become a major e-commerce platform in East Africa and one of the most popular shopping websites among Africans. As of the first half of this year, over 8,000 companies and individuals from African countries and China operated a total of 12,000 stores on the platform and sold about 1 million varieties of commodities.

“China’s e-commerce experience brings inspiration to African entrepreneurs,” said Dickson Nganga, marketing supervisor for Kilimall.

Alibaba.com, Kikuu, Shein and other Chinese platforms have also entered the African market. As e-commerce has become an engine for the rapidly growing economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa, both sides have also made efforts in talent training to help African youth acquire relevant skills.

The China Merchants Foundation and the Government of Djibouti have jointly invested in establishing the Center of Innovation and Maritime Excellence, a non-profit capacity building project aimed at strengthening the leadership and entrepreneurial spirit of youth from Djibouti and East Africa.

Arafo Hassan Barbad from Djibouti, who attended the first training camp last September, said the courses were “very interesting, practical and insightful” and helped lay a solid foundation for her to start her own business.

Since 2019, China has set up a dozen Luban Workshops across Africa, offering training in telecommunications, smart manufacturing, electrical automation technology and e-commerce. In April 2021, the e-commerce professional education standards developed by China’s Jinhua Polytechnic and its Rwandan partners were incorporated into the country’s educational qualifications framework.

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The photo taken on September 17 shows a man conducting transactions at an offline agent of OPay Nigeria in a suburb of Abuja, Nigeria. (Xinhua/Guo Jun)

WIDE AREAS OF COOPERATION

E-commerce is only a microcosm of the rapidly growing digital cooperation between China and Africa. A growing number of Chinese companies are also sharing their expertise in digital payment and entertainment, raising people’s living standards here.

A daily practice for John Chukwuemeka, an auto parts dealer from the Nigerian capital Abuja, is to make quick financial transactions at an OPay agent near his shop. “I can’t remember the last time I was in the bank,” Chukwuemeka said.

OPay, started by a Chinese entrepreneur in Nigeria’s economic hub of Lagos in 2018, has seen rapid growth in its mobile payment services in the country. For Chukwuemeka and many other traders in the market, the OPay agent enables them to deposit, send and receive money and pay bills in a safe and convenient way.

Asnake Nigussie, a cyclist working for beU delivery, checks online orders on his phone in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 19, 2022. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

Founded in 2021, BeU Delivery is a Chinese-invested on-demand food delivery service provider whose partners now include almost every major restaurant in the city.

“I’m happy that with the help of beU, I now reach a much larger people regardless of the geographical limitations we had,” said Birhan Gebremedhin, a restaurant owner who works with beU Delivery, who highlighted the maximum security, delivery speed, and constantly growing customer base as a distinguished quality in the work with the delivery platform.

Transsion, a China-based smartphone manufacturer, has been Africa’s number one smartphone seller for years. The company is now expanding into the field of mobile applications and attracting more and more users with its music streaming media Boomplay, news aggregator Scooper News, short video sharing platform Vskit, among others.

During the 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Qatar, Scooper News launched the “World Cup” column with live updated results and online interaction, which gained popularity among African football fans.

“With the youngest population in the world, the African continent is undergoing rapid urbanization and regional integration, which makes the digital economy in Africa promising. It is believed that with the help of China, Africa will accelerate the pace of digital transformation,” said Costantinos Berhutesfa, professor in Public Policy at Addis Ababa University.