Selected other side events coverage for 1 March 2021


How Digital Transformation Can Contribute to Building Forward Better Post-COVID-19

This event was organized by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP). Sabine Mensah, UNCDF, moderated the session.

Rodrigue Guiguemde, Director General, Digital Industry Development, Burkina Faso, for Hadja Ouattara Sanon, Minister of Digital Economy and Postal Development, Burkina Faso, noted the COVID-19 pandemic has fostered discussions on the future organization of work practices, including broadening remote work options. He emphasized his country’s determination to use digital tools to drive development, and pointed to initiatives related to: online water bill payment; digital corporate tax services; and virtual entry exams for civil service candidates. Guiguemde underscored the need for an inclusive digital transformation, which requires: improving digital access among marginalized communities; building young people’s digital capacity; and opening new markets for SMEs.

Rodrigue Guiguemde, Burkina Faso

Mamadou Biteye, Vice President, Inclusive Growth, Global Social Impact, Visa, spoke about Visa’s efforts to advance digital payment innovations and foster digital equity. He pointed to the newly created Visa Economic Empowerment Institute, which supports capacity building for SMEs to develop digital payment models.

Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, Director, IDEP, said the pandemic showcased the potential to make rapid leaps forward in digital development, and pointed to innovative solutions, such as using drones for blood bank deliveries and 3D printers to make medical equipment. She highlighted the importance of decentralized planning, designing development plans at regional scale, engaging local communities, and “thinking beyond urban centers.” She further stressed the need to build institutional capacity and enhance adaptiveness.

Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, Director, IDEP

Francois Coupienne, Global Digital Lead, UNCDF, delineated UNCDF’s activities aimed at: supporting governments in developing digital strategies; working with the private sector to test new digital tools; and providing financial education training to young people. He emphasized the importance of digital services for farmers, including for weather data and market information, and said “tomorrow’s agriculture will be connected.”

Responding to questions, Guiguemde noted building trust is key to fostering the uptake of digital financial tools, and said developing a national digital identity could facilitate this.

Biteye underscored the importance of ensuring secure transactions, and said Visa only stores data that is indispensable to facilitate transactions. Bounemra Ben Soltane said digital systems need to be reliable and lasting. Coupienne noted “the move from cash to digital does not happen overnight,” and highlighted UNCDF’s technical expertise, including on the design of tariff grids for digital services.

Guiguemde underscored the digital transformation should be centered around citizens’ needs and not on technologies as such. Coupienne emphasized gender inclusivity and youth engagement.

Thierry Amoussougbo, IDEP, summarized key take-aways from the session, including:

  • Digital tools can enhance public service delivery and make governments more efficient;
  • “Democratizing” access to digital payment systems among SMEs is key; and
  • There is great potential in exchanging knowledge on digital development strategies.