Google CEO Sundar Pichai highlighted African innovation during a brief address Monday to the Business Forum of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) held in Addis Ababa.
The business forum was held on the margins of the annual African Union Summit. It focused on transportation as part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) while also placing a priority on tourism’s role in the African economy.
“Africa is increasingly a place where innovation begins. People all over the world now use mobile payment systems, first developed in Kenya. Renewable energy innovations on the continent are shaping a more sustainable future,” said Pichai. “The emerging digital technologies in air transport and tourism in Africa that you are discussing today will improve connectivity on a global scale.”
Pichai added that, put simply, African is on the brink of a digital transformation. He touted the Google and Alphabet investments on the continent, including the $1 billion digital transformation plan announced last year, as well as the Equiano undersea cable.
The AfCFTA will help to drive infrastructure with innovation as the key, he added.
“Digital technology has been a powerful engine for progress,” Pichai said. “That opportunity will only grow: 300 million more people will come online in the next five years — many of them young, entrepreneurial and digitally-savvy.”
A new report from UNECA projects high future demand for transport. For example, aircraft demand is expected to rise by 13.2% in West Africa by 2030, in keeping with AfCFTA trade flows. More than 2 million additional trucks, and the infrastructure to support them, would be needed with full AfCFTA implementation.
Image: CEO Google