In a COVID-19 pandemic where new inequalities have been created with rising youth unemployment widening the gap between the rich and the poor globally, Vodafone Ghana CEO, Patricia Obo-Nai has reiterated the need for young people to acquire digital skills.
Ms. Obo-Nai, who described the acquisition of digital skills among young people as no longer a choice, said COVID-19 has presented a significant momentum for economies on the African continent to create new opportunities to improve digital skills for the youth.
Speaking on the topic: Africa After COVID-19: Can The Economy Recover? At the Bruegel Annual Meetings this year, Ms. Obo-Nai explained that Vodafone has already been working closely with businesses to ensure that they have digital solutions in agriculture, particularly in South Africa, where Vodafone is digitizing the whole agriculture value chain in that country.
In Ghana, she recounted how Vodafone supported many sectors including health, education and the mobile financial sectors in the pandemic. Indeed, when the pandemic started in March this year, Vodafone had put together a six-point plan to save lives of citizens in order to deal with the health crisis.
To tackle the challenge, Vodafone increased its capacity to about 60 percent as more government services, health workers and micro businesses needed to get connected with more people working from home. Vodafone put devices in the hands of health workers where a telecentre with 50 multilinguals were made available to Ghanaian doctors to enable them to share information on their phones while helping citizens.
The company also made educational content available online on its Instance School Platform which kept students apprise with their lessons in the pandemic.
“Data has been so important in this pandemic and Vodafone has worked with the Ghana Statistical Service to assist with population movement to understand government policies in the pandemic. We assisted government with aggregated anonymized mobility insight data (AI driven modelling) contact tracing apps in line with data protection policies” Ms. Obo-Nai indicated.
Regarding mobile money and mobile financial services transactions, Vodafone has worked with central banks on the continent regarding financial inclusions and driving cashless payments and adjusting fees and charges in the pandemic.
“We took the fees off on our transactions in many markets including Ghana. We improved the tier limit for customers to avoid face to face contact. Even though we started with Safaricom in Kenya, we now have operations in about eight African markets with about 40 million customers and we transact about US$14 billion in transactions every month” she said
In donations and in moneys in services across the world to support lives in this pandemic, Vodafone surpasses about 100 million euros as money given to support in the pandemic.
Ms. Obo-Nai however admitted that it is imperative for telecommunication companies to move into remittances, digital wallets, merchant payments and deepening the use of mobile financial services digitally and enabling businesses on how they connect and how they are paid for very basic services. “This is where young people come in, because as the jobs become available in all these areas of the economy, we need young people with digital skills to take up the jobs,” she noted.
Keynote speaker at the meeting, Former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, explained that despite the gains made by many African countries in education, health access and technology, a bleak future still looms as 75 percent of young people on the continent are still not in employment due to population increase, coupled with declining job opportunities.
World Bank Vice President for Africa, Hafez Ghanem noted that the future is still bright for Africa. He said the ratification of ACFTA and the continent being home to enormous natural resources including a human population of 1.3 billion people makes it a continent of opportunities. The Bruegel Annual Meetings which was held on September 1-3, 2020, discussed the most urgent economic questions facing Europe, Africa and the World.