West Africa and the metaverse

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    Imagine the “New Internet”! Understanding the profound impact the Internet has had on the economy, health, education, employment, science and society, what the ‘new Internet’ will look like and why West African governments and investors should invest You will be able to imagine in this emerging technology. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, describes this envisioned “new internet” as the “Metaverse”. Meta leads other parties in the development of the Metaverse. Although the estimated time to complete development is 10 years from now, some early versions of the metaverse are in use today. These include immersive 3D virtual reality (VR), 2D augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and artificial intelligence (AI).

    For example, West Africa’s Nigeria, with 51.7 percent of its population and 62.49 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has been transformed by the Internet. Between 2001 and 2022, when a major reform of information and communication technology (ICT) began, the number of Internet users increased from he 113 million to he 154.8 million. His ICT contribution to the country’s economy also increased from 3.08 percent of GDP in 2001 to 16.22 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) within the same period. A recent Deloitte report on the estimated GDP impact of Metaverse technologies found $9.2 billion to $17.3 billion in Nigeria, $2.3 billion to $4.2 billion in Côte d’Ivoire, $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion in Ghana, and $0.9 billion to $0.9 billion in Senegal. $1.7 billion is shown as an estimated global impact. The economies of these West African countries.

    This will give us more context on what the metaverse means for Nigeria and the West African subregion, so that we can anticipate and try to understand what the concerns of governments and people will be; , it is important to indicate why. Emerging technologies are worth investing in for governments and people in the region.

    The regulatory and control elements of new and disruptive technologies will always be a priority for governments. Recent restrictive measures by some governments in the region are evidence of the need for some level of control and regulation. Recent calls for more regulation of AI in developed countries show that these regulatory concerns are all-encompassing and perhaps justified. And if the technology can help manage socio-economic challenges, it will be of even greater interest to governments in the region.

    For people, economic opportunity, inclusiveness, and interoperability with other existing platforms are key. The region’s youth demographics and what that means for access to education and jobs will be very important.

    By some estimates, the Metaverse will contribute $3 trillion to global GDP, and $400 billion to GDP in Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey. Estimated GDP contributions account for some of the projected economic opportunities, but the fact that the metaverse is still under development provides ample opportunities for inclusion, equity, voice and expression. .

    For governments within the subregion with an interest in regulatory issues, the development stage of new technologies is the right time to get involved. Given that parts of the metaverse such as VR, AR, and MR are already being developed and used, the onus is on governments and metas to collaborate more. Strategic cooperation proactively and cooperatively addresses concerns and challenges that governments sometimes resist and may discourage investment in new technologies.

    And how can some of these policy co-operations be realized within the West African region?

    Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, is the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ECOWAS is a Regional Economic Community (REC) for the West African region recognized by the African Union (AU). Headquarters of the ECOWAS Commission, the executive body of the REC. ECOWAS Congress, its legislative branch. and the ECOWAS Court of Justice, which is the judiciary. All live in the city. The city also hosts the West African Telecommunications Regulatory Conference (WATRA), the conference of the subregional telecommunications regulators. WATRA is a multilateral platform working towards expanding access to ICT within the sub-region.

    Meta’s strategy of cooperation with ECOWAS and its agencies will help ensure that the policy and legislative priorities of West Africa and its governments are taken into account in the development of the Metaverse. Such sub-regional cooperation strategies have subsequently been developed using peer-reviewed frameworks, such as the East African Community (EAC), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Intergovernmental Development Agencies (IGAD) and Common Government. Can be cascaded to other AU RECs. Eastern and Southern African Market (COMESA), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and Union of Arab Maghreb (UMA).

    Just as Metaverse Academies have been established in Paris and Riyadh, similar academies could be established in Abuja, the capital of Africa’s largest economy and most populous country. Establishing such an academy, preferably within a city university with demonstrated links to the continent, will only support effective and efficient collaboration between Meta and West African policy makers and parliamentarians. It will also facilitate comprehensive research by the continental academic community. In doing so, sub-regional and broader continental governments can be more confident about the need to invest in the metaverse, and more confident about the returns to be derived from such investments. The Metaverse Academy in Abuja will also enable more West Africans to participate in the development of the technology, as relevant training in AR, VR, MR and AI will be more easily delivered, allowing the region’s skilled technicians and It effectively ensures that the people involved are well equipped with the necessary knowledge. Training and ability to participate in the development of the metaverse. Through this conceived academy, West African governments and the ECOWAS Commission will be provided with a viable opportunity to invest in the capacity building of engineers and people in the region.

    Before drawing any conclusions, it is important to highlight what the Metaverse can offer to the key development areas of West Africa, especially health care, economic management, education and security.

    The Metaverse can support the training of health professionals in areas where the World Health Organization’s health system ranks poorly. The ratio of doctors to population in West Africa is 1.74 he for 10,000, whereas in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries it is 35 for 10,000 he. Further evaluation of the social data shows that many of the countries in this region have less than 1 doctor per 10,000 people, and in fact less than 10 doctors per 100,000 people. more than half. Metaverse technology will not only enable some of the technology that will support the development of efficient and well-resourced healthcare systems in the ECOWAS region, but will also play a cost-effective role in training healthcare professionals. I can.

    This metaverse could help governments in their efforts to digitize tax collection and raise the tax rate of GDP from the regional average of 14.36 percent to around 33 percent in OECD countries. The digitization of tax collection and other public services will not only increase revenues for much-needed public goods, but also the public sector. And the expansion of the formal sector of the economy will reduce the unwieldy informal sector. The World Economic Forum estimates that the region accounts for about 50 percent of domestic production, more than 80 percent of employment and 90 percent of new jobs. This will strengthen precision development planning in regions of the world where better governance is needed as a means of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Immersive VR technology can significantly increase access to good education in the world’s only growing region of out-of-school children. According to a 2022 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world at 98 million. Of these, West and Central Africa accounted for 57 million, or 24.1 per cent of the world’s total of 236 million out-of-school people. In Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad, more than half of children and adolescents are out of education, mainly due to insecurity. The interrelationship between access to education and security could increase the return on investments in the Metaverse by subregional governments, especially if technology can enhance security.

    The social and political crisis in the Sahel region, combined with a number of other factors, has increased insecurity and state fragility in the region, with many governments seeking to combat the dynamic nature of terrorists and their activities. have limited resources to effectively train security agencies. Therefore, many governments in the region rely on foreign-funded training and equipment due to cost, equipment and technology factors. The Metaverse with its immersive technology shows good prospects for simulated military training and offers several possible options that can support security training in a cost-effective manner. Immersive in Barracks Virtual Training (IBVT) used by the British Army exemplifies the military prospects of the Metaverse. Thus, West African governments’ investment in this technology would reduce their reliance on foreign military training, strengthen their sovereignty, and enable them to effectively and efficiently fulfill their primary responsibilities of life and property security. We should also mention the agritech prospects of this technology, which could improve agricultural productivity and food security in some parts of the world with relatively high levels of food insecurity.

    Many who feel that the region was neither an inclusive part nor a beneficiary of the last three industrial revolutions want the region to play a more significant and beneficial role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. there is The new metaverse offers viable options for its industrial engagement.

    The Metaverse, an emerging technology conceptualized as the next version of the Internet, is expected to address some of the most pressing socioeconomic challenges in West Africa. It could possibly help subregional governments improve health systems, expand access to education, achieve fiscal policy milestones, enhance food security, strengthen territorial security, and more. have a nature. Strategic cooperation will help address some of the governments’ concerns, while the establishment of the Metaverse Academy in the ECOWAS host city of Abuja will bring West African governments, subregional multilateral institutions and It enables effective and efficient exchanges with African countries. wider area. The proposed Academy would also provide an effective means of including sub-regions in the development of the Metaverse and participating more broadly. While this technology offers the sub-region an opportunity to become a strategic part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there are clear benefits for sub-region governments and stakeholders to derive from their investment in the Metaverse.

    For West Africa, the ‘new internet’ is certainly a worthwhile investment.

    Dr. Uwanaka is writing from the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja. [email protected]

    The views expressed by contributors are their own and not those of TheCable.


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