What is the best way to use science, technology, and innovation for sustainable development in times of crisis? This key question was the trigger for an insightful discussion between Amujae Leader Bogolo Kenewendo and a panel of experts and stakeholders at the Eighth Session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in Rwanda.
Ms. Kenewendo’s remarks focused on the central role that innovation-driven industrialization can play in boosting national economies and shielding them from unforeseen shocks. She argued that countries with strong industrialization and innovation records have been able to sustain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their economies.
To build their economic resilience and be better prepared for future shocks, African nations need to work hard to boost their innovation and industrialization capacities, she argued.
Addressing the crucial role of technology in sustaining economic growth, Ms. Kenewendo said it allowed trade to flourish despite the challenges of the pandemic. Offering an example from her home country Botswana—where she served as Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry—she noted:
“We started seeing a very high growth of delivery services that were either mobile-based or internet-based, and that was just proof that we adapt when we are pushed into a corner.”
Ms. Kenewendo also emphasized the importance of e-governance in encouraging business development and economic growth, which she said must be coupled with tackling the digital divide and trade reforms. During her time as minister, Ms. Kenewendo noted, she introduced an online system that significantly reduces the registration timeframe for new businesses, thus “encouraging SME development and encouraging investment in the country.”
The Eighth Session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development is a multi-stakeholder platform organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Ms. Kenewendo was joined in the panel—‘Leveraging Science, Technology, Innovation, and Digital Transformation for a Resilient and Sustainable Recovery from the Covid-19 Crisis’—by Aristide Briand Reboas, the Central African Republic’s Minister of Youth, Sports, and Civic Education; Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa; and Innocent Muhizi, CEO of Rwanda Information Society Authority.
Watch the full panel discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wX6HynIwqM