ICT In Africa

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“We have to be impatient in Moving Africa forward”, President Akinwumi Adesina.

His fight for a better Africa never ends. From infrastructure, agriculture, and now ICT, President Akinwumi Adesina is one man on a mission. Maybe one day, the Continent will achieve this great man’s dream for Africa.

But he is not alone. Other African Leaders have also spoken out strongly in favour of the Continent going the digital way. Thanks to former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pronouncements in 2019 urging African nations to prioritize including ICTs in their development plans. In his opinion, this is so that they can genuinely restructure the economy.

At the Transform Africa Summit 2019 of the Smart Africa Initiative in Kigali, Rwanda, the President presented the roadmap for Kenya’s digital economy to investors and heads of state.

The government’s goal is to increase the economic contribution of ICTs through digital governance solutions, the digitization of business processes, the facilitation of infrastructure delivery, innovation-driven entrepreneurship, and the promotion of digital skills and values, as was made abundantly clear through the blue blueprint presented by President Kenyatta.

President Kenyatta, a proponent of the digital economy on the Continent, stated during a panel discussion at the summit that Kenya has made significant investments in its digital network and is working with other organizations to guarantee effective connectivity for everyone.

“Our vision is that in the next five years, every part of the country will be connected, thus allowing all citizens to partake in the digital movement,” said President Kenyatta.

The M-Pesa mobile money ecosystem, one of the country’s globally acclaimed and ground-breaking technologies, is an example of the Continent’s almost infinite ICT prospects.
But it is also a continent powered by a young, energetic, and fiercely innovative populace that is bursting with great potential.

Therefore, the youth also have a part to play now that African governments have taken on the responsibility of promoting African digitization. However, the main reason this should be done is that the Continent is set to undergo a significant change. Not only is it a brand-new market for investment, but it is also a continent with a young, vibrant, and fiercely innovative population brimming with enormous promise.

We must acknowledge that 2020 is a year that merits mention. Why? Ask if you want to. The Covid 19 was a global health crisis, but for one reason or another, it was a blessing in disguise for the Continent.

When the news first shocked the world, it prompted societal changes all across the globe.

Governments began passing laws restricting big crowds of people, in-person business transactions, and encouraging people to work from home as much as possible almost immediately. Businesses and educational institutions started looking for solutions to continue operating remotely. While working from home offices, they utilized various collaboration tools and video conferencing features to stay connected to their coworkers, clients, and pupils.

Technology was already playing a more significant role in the workforce in Africa before the outbreak. Businesses in this region considered technology a practical tool to interact with customers, a way to provide automation and quicker procedures, and a way to allow some workplace flexibility. However, the new coronavirus outbreak and the ban on non-essential business interactions in person further expedited these adoptions. It compelled businesses not just on the Continent but also in other parts of the world to seek innovative digital solutions for businesses to be able to continue operating remotely and providing services to their clientele.

After Covid, many organizations adopted a dual approach to this shift toward digital operations: one that was customer-facing and one that was internal. To finish work or school tasks while working far from one another, numerous professional organizations and academic institutions had to develop novel communication and collaboration methods. Customers have also voiced a desire for services involving little to no human interaction, pushing for remote or contact-limited operations from a customer-facing perspective.
Collectively, these factors sped up the digital revolution, which affected firms in several industries. Understanding how firms should embrace their digital transformation and what aspects of these changes will probably last helped individuals grasp how these developments have affected businesses post-covid.

Where is the Transformation going?

Even though Africa is lagging behind other regions of the world in the field of information and communication technology, the pandemic has at least underlined its global importance of it.

In 2012 the “eTransform Africa” Report was published by the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Tim Kelly, one of the report’s authors, predicted Africa would rapidly become one of the ICT leaders. “Innovations that began in Africa – like dual SIM card mobile phones, or using mobile phones for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond”. Those were high expectations – so, what changed in the past years?

Not enough, according to Mr John Omo, the Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union. “There is an urgent need for Africa to equip and prepare her citizens with the right digital skills for the uptake of emerging technologies,” he remarked after the Africa ICT Day 2021. He described the Continent’s failure to prepare its citizens to harness the new opportunities made possible by new ICT technologies.

But ICT is still in an upwards trend. According to Statista, no other region in the world has seen such strong growth in total internet users between 2009 and 2021. The number has increased almost sixfold.

However, there are significant differences within Africa as far as the internet is concerned. Both in terms of users in the form of gender, age and wealth, but primarily also in terms of price. According to data provided by Cable.co.uk, the countries with the highest monthly costs per megabit lie in Africa. Of the 20 most expensive countries, 12 are African.

Eritrea leads the world with $277, followed by Guinea-Bissau ($167) and Burundi ($148.55). Only in fourth place did the Marshall Islands redeem Africa from its dominance. For illustration, in South Africa, the price is $1.2 dollars and in Nigeria, it is $2.95.

However, the internet per se is far from being an enrichment. It requires a device that can use it. Especially due to the pandemic, mobile phones are playing an increasingly important role. They house the screen through which we see the new normality.

According to GSMA surveys, 515 million people in sub-Saharan Africa owned a mobile phone in 2021. This number is expected to grow by almost another hundred million in the next three years. This means that half of the population would have one. Also, data consumption is also expected to grow above the global average.

Many figures point in one direction: Africa is growing faster than average in ICT. But it is still lagging in many areas. But the internet is becoming more affordable and more mobile phones are ending up in the hands of African users.

A continent on the right track. For example, Google opened Africa’s first Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Ghana in 2019. It is up to policymakers to create an attractive environment for the sector and up to the people to make it grow.

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