Opinion and Analysis

Satellites can solve Africa’s Internet connectivity problem

Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, with the number of cities on the continent with over 10 million inhabitants equally doubling over the same two-decade period.

It is expected that Africa’s population will double to 2.4 billion people by 2050.

To reduce poverty and improve the living conditions of these inhabitants, full-scale regional trade has been touted as one of the best and most feasible solutions.

However, we are well aware that a lack of infrastructure in most African countries and the movement of people and goods is difficult and expensive. The low infrastructure has not sparred the telecommunications sector.

Today, over 300 million Africans live more than 50 km from the nearest fibre or cable broadband connection and 400 million people have no Internet access at all — that’s 700 million unconnected people.

This equates to 60–70 per cent of the African population living in remote areas lack access to information and the necessary facilities required for sustainable growth.

These people, by no fault of their own, are pulling their country backwards as they are not able to contribute to the economy, as much as they no doubt would want to.

Digital communications and broadband Internet are therefore increasingly important to Africa’s social and economic development.

Many governments and public institutions on our continent have already begun to develop broadband policies to address digital inequality but are hindered by costs, infrastructure and inaccessible, non-urban populations.

Satellites can be the silver bullet to these problems. Satellites have vast coverage and a reach that is undaunted by mountain, desert, jungle or savannah.

Satellite broadband technology is able to deliver a wide range of services across non-urban populations to help drive growth and knowledge transfer.

If more people are exposed to information, it is easier for them to grow their knowledge and take advantage of it, enabling them to contribute to the economy.

According to our research, if a developing nation has 10 per cent more broadband connectivity, it results in a 1.38 per cent GDP growth for that country. Satellite connectivity enables a country to explore the opportunities and synergies beyond its borders.

It can also play a vital role in securing a country’s borders, particularly in the horn of Africa where there is a high insecurity, and encourages foreign investment.

Additionally satellites are able to provide vital connectivity needs of rural communities especially in remote areas where there is very little or no terrestrial infrastructure.

This enables smarter networks by combining terrestrial and satellite strengths, delivering connectivity and content in the most cost-effective ways to the largest number of users.

By being able to reach the masses and grow the Internet user base, this connectivity has the ability to increase the GDP in many developing nations.

Mr Guimba comments on topical issues.