Internet connectivity delivering economic liberation to Africa


Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Information Communications and The Digital Economy Eliud Owalo at a past event on November 9, 2022. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Kenya and the rest of Africa are getting ready to take over the world. This may not be a sentiment the developed world tends to agree with, but it is time to acknowledge the facts.

Around 17 percent of the world’s population resides in Africa and, according to an article by the World Economic Forum, the urban population of Africa is expected to nearly triple by 2050.

But what’s stopping them from taking their rightful place in the world economy?

The answer to this question is obviously complicated and full of history and nuances, but I would argue that one structural obstacle stands firm in the way of Africa’s economic metamorphosis.

Read: Internet is basic need, give everyone access

There is just not enough internet connectivity.

The World Bank posits that the digital economy forms 15.5 percent of global GDP, which is growing two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years.

Research reveals that a simple 10 percent increase in mobile broadband penetration in Africa would result in an increase of 2.5 percent of GDP per capita.

According to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, Africa is home to approximately 700 million of the world’s 3.7 billion unconnected people.

As we enter a post-pandemic age, where physical presence is no longer a synonym for effort and value-add, developing countries (and continents) are going to need the right tools and environments to enable economic momentum.

On that front, there is a lot of progress being made.

The cost of connectivity is decreasing rapidly (almost everywhere) and access to basic internet is increasing.

Analysts continue to highlight the rapid growth in intra-African network traffic. Yet, there is also a wealth of sub-sea cable capacity coming into the continent over the next few years.

Getting cables to remote regions is a challenge, and once you get connectivity to a region, network access tends to come at a fixed cost.

In the connectivity game, higher capacity requirements create constant downward pressure on unit cost.

As we continue to bridge the connectivity gap in Africa, eventually reaching levels seen only in developed economies, we will no doubt witness an exponential boom in GDP and productivity.

Read: New building code boost for internet connectivity

Alongside this will come improvements in health conditions and education opportunities.

In time, and with the right attitude, it is connectivity that provides the spark to reduce poverty and promote economic and social success.