Africa: a continent with huge digital potential
Mobile networks are driving Africa forward as an emerging digital and entrepreneurial economy as the continent embraces the power of connectivity
Africa is a continent that offers huge potential to businesses which are willing to be flexible, able to move fast, and capable of adapting to the challenges of a rapidly developing region. According to the UN, more than 50 per cent of global population growth to 2050 is predicted to be in Africa – the population of sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to double in that time. This means there is a young population, and it is the young who are usually the first to embrace new technology and see the possibilities.
Since the inception of GSM networks some 30 years ago, mobile communications have developed into the main driver of economic growth in developing regions. In some African countries with a lack of physical infrastructure, mobile phones have provided the first ever means of efficiently connecting individuals and communities. This ever-growing digital ecosystem is therefore pivotal to the continued economic emergence of the continent. Access to the Internet via smartphones means acquiring information, education and sharing of knowledge, and the creation of many small businesses driven by the availability of microfinancing.
The GSMA sees sub-Saharan Africa as the fastest growing region in terms of mobile connections, with a CAGR of 4.6 percent and an increase of some 167 million subscribers by 2025. The GSMA expected 3G to overtake 2G in 2019, to become the leading mobile technology in the region. The adoption of 3G has doubled since 2017, and mobile broadband (3G and above) networks now cover more than 70 percent of the population.
As a ‘mobile first’ continent with little history of traditional landline connections, both businesses and consumers are quick to embrace and exploit the potential of the mobile Internet. Mobile operators in the region such as MTN are well known for their innovation – for example MTN’s Mobile Money is empowering entrepreneurs to build businesses and increase employment opportunities. Mobile Digital payments has catalysed several sectors across Africa, including solar power and water providers and insurance companies. These businesses have been able to reach and connect with a whole new customer base through the power of mobile.
The growth of Africa’s ICT sector has been largely attributed to the wider accessibility of digital financial services.
Mobile-enabled platforms are creating new value chains and new business models. These platforms have the capability to eliminate the huge inefficiencies that have developed over time using ‘traditional’ methods. Mobile connectivity can be the bedrock of increasing automation and the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI). Automation and AI can increase the employment opportunities for the low-skilled by creating and building training programs that become more tailored and sophisticated as the workers become more confident and capable. AI can also be deployed to increase the effectiveness and reach of healthcare services in Africa, using mobile networks for remote diagnosis and monitoring patients with long term chronic conditions who may not easily be able to travel to medical centres.
The growth of digital services, whether business, financial or entertainment, will continue with the increased penetration of smartphones and broadband networks. This is a chain reaction catalyst – greater connectivity brings more opportunities, better education, and more widespread financial inclusion. The Internet also delivers critical health information and opens up accessibility to medical advice. This leads to significant benefits both to individuals and the wider medical profession who can liaise with international colleagues and increase their own skills and knowledge to improve the overall health of the region.
Africa has the potential to leapfrog more established economies and surge forward, driven by its enthusiastic youth and entrepreneurial spirit. Of course there are challenges – many people still do not have access to clean safe drinking water or basic medical facilities, but the power of connectivity to catalyse the development of a more robust infrastructure cannot be underestimated. Today’s world runs on enhanced connectivity and we are proud to be a part of Africa’s evolution in leveraging new digital capabilities.
Tecnotree is a trusted partner of several local cellular service providers (CSPs), and we are proud to have a longstanding partnership with MTN Group, serving as the Group’s primary BSS provider in many of their operating countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Swaziland, Benin Guinea Conakry, Congo, Zambia & Sudan. We also serve CSPs in the African sub-continent in Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, and Namibia with our platforms and products. Tecnotree is committed to employing local talent in each of these countries. We do our utmost to provide training so that these employees can be upskilled and educated in our cutting-edge technologies, providing them with the chance to work in a global company.
Africa’s appetite for emerging as a digital and entrepreneurial economy through the power of connectivity will provide it the ability to compete and leap-frog ahead of many emerging economies. Tecnotree has been serving this market for over 2 decades and is truly benefited from this journey and is proud to be part of it success.
For more information on business topics in Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.