Dr Vera Songwe Tells Us About Digital Talent and Building Forward Better

This interview is part of the Dialogue on Digital Transformation series.

Dr. Vera Songwe is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Dr. Songwe is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Prior to becoming Director, Dr. Songwe was a Lead Economist at the World Bank. Dr. Songwe has also served as a Regional Director at the International Finance Corporation, and is a member of the African Leadership Network.


In this conversion with Portulans Director Dr. Bruno Lanvin, Dr. Songwe shares insights about regional digital transformation during COVID-19. Across Africa, “there has been a burst of innovation – which by the end of this crisis – hopefully – will result in a much more diversified economy.” Dr. Songwe describes how the private sector has “stood up” and contributed to the pandemic relief effort. To Dr. Songwe, the crisis has underlined the importance of people-first policies that prioritize local capacity-building. Looking ahead, the “government and the private sector needs to come together to create the right environment for [digital readiness] to blossom” and contribute new economic opportunities for post-COVID societies. As for digital skills, Dr. Songwe notes that “all countries have the same talent – but they do not have the same policies that determine if talent shines or if it does not.” Dr. Songwe emphasizes that policy-makers and digital transformation pioneers must ask themselves whether they are designing digital solutions for local challenges. “If the answer is yes, then we’ll end up with the right kind of digital transformation… a positive virtue cycle that creates itself.” Watch the full conversation here and find the highlights here.