South Africa has put digital transformation at the top of the country’s plans and hopes to explore possibilities for more collaboration on e-commerce together with a Chinese company, according to Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South African Minister of Communications.

She was speaking in Davos at the World Economic Forum (WEF) whose theme is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).” The approach of 4IR is pushing South Africa to accelerate its digitalization process.

“We are facing everything that the world is facing with – the challenge brought by the 4IR,” the minister said. “That leaves us with no choice, but to say how to make sure that we are upscaling our workforce to respond to the challenges and explore opportunities that would be brought by 4IR……We have to coordinate, collaborate and execute.”

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South African Minister of Communications, (L) speaks with CGTN’s Cheng Lei in Davos, Switzerland. /CGTN Photo

The country is rolling out its digitalization strategy.

“The equipment, the technology is moving so fast. That requires all of us to be digitalized,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

And two areas of progress were highlighted by the minister.

One is digital infrastructure. “We have about 20 million unconnected people in South Africa…In South Africa, we adopted our digital strategy in terms of making sure that we have to deploy digital infrastructure first…This is not doing only with government but also with the private sector.”

The other remarkable step is digitalization of education.

“One thing at least we are happy about is that finally, we are getting education digitalized. It’s something we move with a low path. But now government takes a clear decision to say ‘let’s make sure that all education equipment and all education contexts are digitalized.’ And that is a step forward,” Ndabeni-Abrahams told CGTN.

 “We did a study to understand why people are not online and then we realized that they are skeptical [about the internet] because they don’t know what’s going to happen when they go online…You may connect all people to the internet. But if people don’t know what to do with the internet, that would be wasteful and a danger to them.”

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South African Minister of Communications, in Davos, Switzerland. /CGTN Photo

To facilitate the country’s digital process, she also revealed that she would meet with Chinese business magnate Jack Ma in Davos. “We want to explore more on the e-commerce platform,” she said.

And the digital rollout in South Africa welcomes Chinese companies as well. For instance, Chinese telecom giant Huawei has been investing in South Africa for 20 years, as well as providing services to entities and companies. And the country is satisfied with Huawei’s service.

“Definitely, Huawei is working with most of our companies. They provide equipment to state-own entities and private sectors. We have good relations with them,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

As to suspicions among some industrialized nations about Chinese tech companies, she said, “We have met with Huawei leadership in South Africa. And they had told us they were not involved in any activity…What we are trying to do is to encourage and explain the consequences if that is the situation in South Africa.”


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