China-Tanzania digital innovation pivotal to socioeconomic growth

China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Deng Li. PHOTO | CHINA EMBASSY IN TANZANIA

By Darius Mukiza

Tanzania is one of the African countries that would benefit greatly from the China- Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation – but only if and when the plan is implemented as finally agreed to by both parties.

According to last year’s UNCTAD assessment report, Tanzania is well-positioned to integrate into the global digital economy, partly due to its growing economy and a rapidly developing innovative ecosystem.

A digital economy is very important, as it stimulates competitiveness and production-boosting opportunities relating to access to digital products and services.

Speaking at the China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation on the Digital Innovation Forum last week, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Deng Li said the plan focuses on new business forms such as digital economy, 5G and smart city technologies.

UNCTAD’s assessment of the country’s readiness to engage in e-commerce has revealed Tanzania’s potential to become a leading contender in online trade in east Africa, especially on the mobile finance and digital payment fronts.

However, the lack of a national e-commerce strategy and mainstreaming e-commerce into its national and sectoral development plans, or into inter-ministerial or public-private sector dialogue, is holding Tanzania back, the UNCTAD assessment noted.

This is where the importance of the China-Tanzania digital economy lies. The two need to work together to enhance information, communications and technology (ICT) infrastructure.

The Chinese company Huawei has already formulated a strategy for a better-connected Tanzania by improving information, communications and technology (ICT) awareness in government, academic institutions and the general public, as well as focusing on capacity-building, infrastructure, policy, a legal framework and public relations activities.

The aim is to create a skilled labour that’s also facilitated by its advancements in Huawei ICT development that, when shared professionally, will enable Tanzania to realize accelerated industrial and economic growth.

For Tanzania to benefit from the Chinese digital economy, it needs to create a conducive legislative climate and a national e-commerce strategy, as well as provide incentives to startups.

In December last year, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa commended Huawei Tanzania for improving ICT skills among Tanzanian students, saying the move would enable them to better utilise ICT skills for the country’s socioeconomic development.

The Premier urged local ICT companies to emulate Huawei’s programme aimed at improving ICT skills among the youth as Tanzania embraces the digital economy.

The Premier was echoed by former Chinese ambassador to Tanzania, Wang Ke, who said the “ICT industry, as the fundamental industry in the digital age, serves as an essential support to the digital transformation of all industries and leads innovative development of the global economy.”

China-Tanzania digital economy investments will make the East African country create smart cities.

Information gained from that data is used to manage assets, resources and services. In return, the data is used to improve operations across the city.

This includes data collected from citizens, devices, buildings and assets that is then processed and analysed to manage transportation systems, power plants, utilities, water supply networks, waste, crime detection, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other services.

Tanzania-China Smart Cities are expected to optimise metropolitan functions and promote economic growth while also improving the quality of life for Tanzanians by using smart technologies and data analyses.

Developing ICT or digital economy requires the kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects and devices.

This is the 5G that China is able, willing and ready to implement in Tanzania and other African countries. Access to 5G technology would improve the safety and security of services in Tanzania.

Such opportunities include smart cities with 5G in public spaces; the potential for remote surgery; better vehicular traffic control and many other applications that depend on virtually instantaneous response time.

In short: 5G technology is important for making Tanzanians and businesses succeed as the country implements its industrial policy that aims at creating jobs as well as fueling economic growth.

The plan that is to be implemented was blessed by China President Xi at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against Covid-19 held in Beijing mid- last year.

Moreover, the State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed the plan during his African tour last year when he emphasized the importance of China and Africa cooperating in building a Digital Africa

The forum, hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China, was attended by ministerial-level officials from African countries, the African Union Commission official in-charge of digital and telecommunications affairs, as well as diplomatic envoys to China, Chinese and African scholars and entrepreneurs.