Vodafone Ghana CEO, Patricia Obo-Nai is calling of young people in Africa to acquire digital skills if they want to be relevant now and in the post-COVID-19 era.
She was speaking at a virtual forum to discuss Africa’s economic recovery in the post Covid-19 era at the just-ended Bruegel Annual Meeting, where she joined four other panelists, including former Liberia President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to speak to audiences across the globe.
Patricia Obo-Nai, whose focus was on the private sector perspective, stated “I keep telling our youth that digital skills are no longer a choice but a must because without mastering the digital space in the post-COVID-19 era the African youth risk being left behind.”
She noted that digital skills have become particularly necessary because COVID-19 has moved almost everything to that space and has also create new inequalities, reflected in growing youth unemployment, a wider gap between the rich and poor as well as the old and young.
The Vodafone Ghana CEO said there is every evidence to show the future opportunities are on digital platforms so the youth cannot afford to remain ignorant of how that space works.
Patricia Obo-Nai said it was because of that realization that Vodafone paid particular attention to investing in creating a digital education platform called Insta-School to offer free education to the youth at no data cost, while zero-rating existing education platforms globally as well.
“Private sector needs to work with governments and civil society to fashion strategies on how to effectively provide the youth with digital skills to stem the rising youth employment as a result of COVID-19,” she suggested.
She argued that getting the youth to master the digital space would be key to Africa’s post-COVID economic recovery and the time to start the process is now – and that is where Vodafone’s attention is, in all of its eight operations on the continent.
“During the pandemic itself, a greater part of our investment went into the health sector – helping governments to save lives by digitizing healthcare and providing aggregated, anonymized mobility insights and AI driven contact tracing apps across our operations around the world.
“In Ghana we worked with the Ghana Statistical Services to monitor the movement of people so we could provide government with scientific date for easy contact tracing,” she said.
This was in addition to the collaboration with central banks to provide free mobile money transfers and boosted thresholds to make citizens have access to more money in their mobile wallets and also be able to do some transactions at no cost.
Indeed, Vodafone Ghana is the only telco that is giving free transfer on the Mobile Money Interoperability platform, in addition to what all other telcos are doing – giving free transfer of the first GHC100 in a day.
But she noted that going forward, private sector would have the critical duty to support governments in the economic recovery of Africa to ensure that the continent builds a social resistance – a collective force to leapfrog the COVID-19 challenges and build a better future.
“At Vodafone, our commitment is to ensure that all our stakeholders would stay connected so we are investing to provide a resilient network with increased network capacity to ensure reliable services across our operations,” she said.
According to her, the Vodafone Group spends a billion dollars a year to boost network infrastructure, adding that in Ghana they increased network capacity by about 60% based on the 50% increase in data traffic in many markets as a result of COVID-19 lockdown.
She said there is still a gap of about 80 to 100 billion dollars investment to be made in the telecom and digital sector to ensure everyone is covered, particularly the rural under-served and unserved communities, adding that going forward, that would be one of Vodafone’s key focuses and the private sector and government is expected to make that a priority.
“We are actively investing in network infrastructure and participating infrastructure sharing and also investing in rural telephony and building infrastructure in the rural areas because we know that is going to be very important as dependence on digital service becomes more critical.
“For us at Vodafone, apart from that immediate need to improve infrastructure, there is need to make our network future-proof to support economic recovery – it should be safe, resilient and the quality of the communication should be good because businesses are going to thrive on communication and digital services going forward,” she remarked.
To the private sector she said, “We have to support government to digital all services – e-health, e-education and others will become basic and so we have to leverage telemedicine and digital other digital platforms to deliver services to our people”.