INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
Africa is advancing by leaps and bounds in adoption and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the private and public sectors. This is unique sector in that it influences the advancement of all other sectors and factors of production in the economy. ICT innovations are dramatically changing the way African governments and businesses operate, ultimately driving entrepreneurship and economic growth.
ICT in Africa has its own set of unique opportunities and challenges. The African Development Bank (AfDB), estimates that the continent’s mobile industry contributes US$56 billion to the regional economy, around 3.5% of total continental GDP. While the continent’s mobile penetration was around 65% in 2011, internet penetration was at about 11.5% and remains considerably underdeveloped in comparison.
While public sector investment in ICT in Africa has improved considerably, the private sector continues to be the key driver for investment and has invested close to $50 billion over the last decade.
AfDB suggests that a significant potential opportunity exists for low and middle-income African countries in the IT-enabled services (ITES) sector, which will exploit available broadband infrastructure. According to the report, the ITES sector – which is ICT-based services such as call centres – represents a “$500 billion addressable market, of which only about 20% has been realised”.
ICT IN AFRICA FACTS AND FIGURES
20-fold increase in access to bandwidth internet in just four years
7% growth contributed by ICT to Africa’s total GDP
$56 billion invested by the private sector in telecom
$170 billion projected ICT market in 2017
77% annual growth rate in mobile data demand (CISCO, EMEA report)
20-fold increase in data traffic up to 2020 (Ericsson)
930 million mobile phone subscribers, larger than Europe and USA combined
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL INVESTMENTS IN ICT
Agriculture: In Kenya, the Kilimo Salama scheme is providing crop insurance for farmers, using the M-PESA payment gateway, helping them to better manage natural hazards such as drought or excessive rainfall.
Climate change adaptation: In Malawi, a deforestation project is training local communities to map their villages using GPS devices and empowering them to develop localized adaptation strategies by engaging communities.
Financial services: In Senegal, SONATEL is one of the latest operators on the continent to launch a money transfer service that is enabling 200,000 subscribers to send and receive money using mobile phones.
Health: In Mali, telemedicine is helping overcome the lack of trained healthcare workers and specialists in rural areas, specifically the IKON Tele-radiology program.
Taxes: The possibility of electronic filing of taxes in South Africa.
Agriculture: The use of sensor-based irrigation systems in Egypt is revolutionizing traditional practices.
Security: Chinese telecoms firm Huawei and Safaricom recently collaborated on Kenya’s “Safe City” solution to deal with terrorism in Nairobi and Mombasa, 1,800 surveillance cameras were installed in the two main cities.