Is Africa Economically Stuck? It has been dubbed the continent of  wealth, yet one of poverty – a disturbing combination if you ask me. So what are we missing? The key to success has by far changed, and like a shape-shifter, it now bears a new identity – internet access. Africa needs to spot the difference. Here is the story for most Africans.

Growing up, there is a quote that has passed through almost every African in born, if not all. Especially in primary school, standing under the majestic flag of one’s country, tense and under all the pressure for the days ahead. Looking at the vast number of student bodies, standing in evenly spaced- neat rows, you would think we are building armies on  every Monday of all school days. A voice always preaching “Education is the Key to success”.

The key fits in the blind spot.

There are over 50,000 graduates in Kenya and about 190,000 in South Africa every year. Imagine these two countries represent the African continent. Now trace back the numbers to when many countries in Africa embraced education in their cultures. The numbers are staggering. Yet even with this access to formal education, the African economy is a slug. Maybe that is why the quote is all wrong and people like Kayambila Mpulamaska correct it by saying that education is instead the key for success. Either way, we need to refocus our attention.

Read more: Success Requires Positioning.

No disputes to the narrative, but it is only fair to give everyone the same shot at success. COVID-19 has proven that for education to work, we need to rethink what our priorities are. The internet sounded like a rich kid’s privilege up until learners all over the world had no option but to catch up with classes online. Africa was not left behind, or was it? The truth still stares us smack in the face, clear as day saying, “Huston, we have a problem.”

By the time I knew of browsers like Mozilla firefox, my view was that it was not for people like me and certainly not for schools like mine. Now, I read that a 10% increase in internet usage could increase international trade by 0.4-0.6% (a whole lot) in Africa. I can’t help but feel that something was withheld from me and is still owed to a lot other African children. As if this is not bad enough, the pandemic has revealed a gap in our ability to use technology to help save lives. Why? Our internet coverage is poor and inadequate to support systems like contact tracing effectively.

Contact tracing is a monitoring technology that follows up on a person daily and everyone they come across. It mostly makes use of an app on the phone but more important, connectivity or internet coverage. The underlining hurdle to usage of this tech is poor internet coverage. Also, the governments have no stable policies that protect you and I from security issues and most of those in rural areas have trouble accessing smart phones. These are the blind spots.

Here is some good news though, someone always cares. With organisations like Mozilla pushing for policies that address internet safety and accessibility and the discussion happening around it like the one on ‘ Privacy, Contact Tracing and COVID-19 in Africa’, by Africa Law Tech Association; this blind spot has become exposed and the glimpses of light are promising.