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Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

Hennie Loubser (Africa) - Who Will be the Next African BRIC(S) in the Wall?

Last month, South Africa's President Zuma attended the third summit meeting of the BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) group - marking the addition of South Africa to the organization, which consists of the four biggest emerging markets in terms of economic performance and contribution to the global economy. Many people questioned why South Africa - with an annual growth, population, and gross domestic product that looks unimpressive when juxtaposed with that of the other BRIC nations - was chosen ahead of worthy contenders such as Mexico and South Korea. Others rejoiced at what seemed to be a sign that not only South Africa, but Africa, was on the road to become a major global player. 


It's been noted that the invitation to South Africa to join the BRIC (now BRICS) signifies an important change of strategy regarding the rationale of the group. No longer purely based on numbers, the new addition establishes the BRICS as a symbol of the economic progression of the developing world - as such, having a member from the African continent makes perfect sense.

Jim O'Neill, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, who originally coined the ‘BRIC' acronym, suggested in his article, ‘How Africa can become the next Bric,' that African countries need to address a number of ‘micro components' to unleash their potential: stability of law and government, education, and the penetration of mobile phones and the Internet, to name a few. He points to Egypt and Nigeria as 2 of ‘the next eleven' countries likely to achieve ‘BRIC' status (bear in mind, he wrote the article before South Africa's inclusion, which he admits he did not anticipate).

This year's World Economic Forum Africa, which took place in Cape Town this month, highlighted key recommendations for Africa's sustainable development going forward: maintain open trade, enhance existing infrastructure to encourage investors, and focus on job creation and partner initiatives. I would like to add that fundamental to making these recommendations a reality is the necessary investment in technology infrastructure.

The common connective glue in this development equation is innovation after all - and much more so than merely growing the use of mobile phones and the Internet. In recent years, Africa's consumers have become much more digitally aware, especially decision makers within government, and I believe that technical innovation will continue to be an important catalyst to help governments serve their citizens more effectively by helping to address their security, accessibility and regulatory challenges. Innovation is the fuel for jobs and business development, broadening social and economic opportunities for Africa's citizens. But it is important to note here that bridging the digital divide will have limited impact on development without investment in Africa's most important resource - its people. Expanding educational opportunities and digital literacy in communities is critical to enabling people to harness the opportunities that technology can offer.

As highlighted at the World Economic Forum, public private partnerships are also essential in accelerating innovation and creating and sustaining growth. By creating the right sorts of partnerships, the public and private sector can share the weight of the Forum's recommendations. The private sector has an enormous role to play when it comes to enhancing infrastructure, creating jobs, and partnering on initiatives integral to the development of African economies.

Microsoft is already engaging in high impact public private-partnerships to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of national institutions and their development partners here in Africa, ranging from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

We believe that if we work in partnership to provide access to the technology and skills that support the next generation of innovators, then the citizens of Africa will do the rest. If we work together, we can lay the foundations for another African ‘BRIC' in the wall.

By Hennie Loubser, Regional General Manager for Microsoft West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands

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