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Interview with Francis Hintermann, Global Managing Director of Accenture Research

Francis Hintermann, Global Managing Director of Accenture Research and B20 Financing Growth & Investment Knowledge Partner, discusses the G20's Compact with Africa Intiative and the role that innovation and entrepreneurship can play in the African economy.

How can the G20 bridge the digital divide between and within countries in Africa?

The G20 can bridge the digital divide by encouraging “global connectivity” through affordable broadband access for all. Broadband can play a critical role to foster strong and inclusive economic growth: a more comprehensive digital infrastructure will enable greater access to innovation, to clients, to suppliers and to platforms and will foster ecosystems to thrive. Small and Medium Enterprises, which are the backbone of African economies, will disproportionately benefit from such investments, as large firms are currently twice more likely to have a website.


What role can innovation and entrepreneurship play in advancing the African economy?

Innovation will play a critical role of accelerator of the transformation of the African Economy. As waves of technology innovation are getting more frequent and stronger – the latest one being Artificial Intelligence -, Large companies have to “rotate to the New” through a series of wise pivots from their legacy products, organization and culture to the “New” and combine digital investments at scale and high return on investment.

In that context it will be important for large companies to partner with entrepreneurs and startups to capture all the benefits of open innovation. For instance, In South Africa an additional $12bn value could be created if large companies were collaborating better with Startups

Digital innovation can also offer a decisive factor of gender equalization: It will be especially important for women entrepreneurs as multiple research have proven that female entrepreneurs particularly benefit from the increased transparency and productivity caused by access to digital commerce and payments.

The impact of Innovation will be also critical for youth, through better, more inclusive education with emphasis on STEM and liberal arts skills and greater access to the workforce and to jobs.

Last it will require a “Technology for Good” approach in which human centric policies are implemented through an emphasis on accountability, transparency, honesty and Fairness


What is the key ingredient in making the Compacts with Africa a success?

In Africa the focus on mobile infrastructures shall be a central component of digital policies: with 650 Million mobile phones next year, Africa will have more mobile phones than Europe, additionally the number of smartphone connections has almost doubled in the past two years and last but not least digital payment was the number 1 area for funding of startups last year. Overall the digital ecosystem has reached a tipping point in Africa and the G20 Compact With Africa can provide the missing element to foster inclusive growth. In that context, one key ingredient in making the Compacts with Africa a success is to leverage Africa’s unique strength, its mobile ecosystem, and remove all the obstacles which prevent it to operate at full scale, through greater strengthening the legal and regulatory frameworks and investment at scale in digital infrastructures.

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