Foreign direct investment should not reverse gains

Close up picture of a pile of coins and a model house. [Getty Images]

Globalisation has been largely realised by the progressively expansive access to the Internet and platforms that have made it easier for people to make use and sense of how this resource can simplify their lives.

Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Alphabet have over the years become the go-to providers, platforms, and gateways for the access and dissemination of information and online products. It is estimated that about 3 billion people make use of Meta's Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram every month.

Alphabet's Google Search platform is used by more than 90 per cent of the global population, and Google's Android software is said to support at least three of every four of the world's smartphones. The term big-tech is clearly an apt description for these technology companies that now control where and how we consume data products and content. This scenario has led to the rise of another important global conversation - the decentralisation of the Internet; a concept where this resource is owned by many, with millions of devices linked together in an open network.

No one actor should own it, control it, or switch it off for everyone. Decentralisation is seen as key to ensuring that the Internet remains a public resource that is healthy and available to all and that it is not controlled by a tiny handful of organisations. The advent of Covid-19 catalysed the adoption of digital solutions to enable businesses continue to run, either completely remotely or via hybrid models. The demand for connectivity also shot up exponentially with businesses realising that digital transformation was no longer a choice and that digital connectivity was now king.

This global evolution has now led to big-tech players expanding and increasing their physical presence to other markets. With the digital economy becoming one of the main drivers of growth in several African countries, accounting for more than five per cent of GDP, these multinationals have now set up shop on the continent.

Amazon announced a $280 million investment in their new African headquarters in Cape Town, payment processing platform Stripe acquired 100 per cent of leading African fintech Paystack, Google has invested in its first-ever Africa product development hub in Nairobi as part of its Sh115.5b investments on the continent over the next five years, and Microsoft has invested Sh3b in its African Development Centre that is said to be one of the largest engineering facilities in Africa.

The positive impact of technology on the African continent cannot be overstated. It has the potential to bring about social inclusion, expand access to knowledge, financial services and healthcare, create new business opportunities, and provide more consumer choice.

Local consumers continue to progressively enjoy access to better mobile Internet coverage, and by extension, access to online platforms making it easier for them to access public services and conduct digital commerce.

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