BY MADUABUCHI EFEGADI
African business leaders have been shown through a study how greater innovation from telecoms and technology companies can fuel Africa’s economic growth, but they are, however, sorely worried that huge infrastructure problems are a key hindrance to this expected advancement, according to new research for blockchain-based mobile network operator World Mobile.
The study which interviewed senior business leaders from Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Botswana, Angola and Tanzania whose companies have a combined annual revenue of more than $6.75 billion, found that 65 percent of these business leaders worry that a lack of infrastructure is stopping traditional telecom companies from delivering the internet connectivity the continent needs.
But they are optimistic that innovation from new entrants will achieve dramatic improvements. Nearly 71 percent of them say new approaches were expanding internet connectivity to the continent’s hard-to-reach areas more affordably.
The study also found that executives believe the expansion of the African middle class coupled with government support was driving demand for innovation. Two-thirds (or 66 percent) believe connectivity will improve over the next five years with a quarter (24 percent) expecting dramatic improvements, the research among senior executives at companies based in Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa showed.
For the African business leaders, the biggest benefits of expanding connectivity will be growing internal trade on the continent which was highlighted by 78 percent. Around 75 percent pointed to growth in international trade, while 55 percent however, said it has rather led to better education and healthcare.
Micky Watkins, CEO of World Mobile said there was growing confidence that Africa is on the verge of a revolution in internet connectivity with innovators such as World Mobile responding to the huge growth opportunities across the continent and government support.
However, the research with business leaders observed that there was some scepticism with more than a quarter of senior executives saying they expect no change in connectivity over the next five years and pointing to potential roadblocks such as bureaucracy and a lack of innovation.
“Improving internet connectivity is vital to delivering the potential of Africa, which is not just good for global economic growth but also for improving living standards across the continent and we are focused on playing our part in supporting innovation,” Watkins said.
World Mobile is helping to revolutionise internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa, and is already working with the government in Zanzibar where it is launching a unique hybrid mobile network delivering connectivity supported by low altitude platform balloons.
Africa to date, on a regional scale has the lowest number of Internet connections—only 22 percent of the continent has access. It also has the largest potential for progress. The African Union (AU), with support from the World Bank Group, has set the goal of connecting every individual, business, and government on the continent by 2030.