Africa Business Communities
[Column] Nixon Kanali: There’s an urgent need to foster a connected Africa

[Column] Nixon Kanali: There’s an urgent need to foster a connected Africa

Despite improvements in the last couple of years a large percentage of Africa’s population still has no access to broadband internet access. In fact, according to the World Bank, in 2022, only 36 per cent of the population had been covered. 

Though mobile internet availability has increased in the continent, the World Bank notes that broadband infrastructure reach and the quality of available services still lag other regions. 

Furthermore, the continent also has Africa has one of the widest digital gender gaps worldwide, with the greatest disparity between men and women using the internet (35 per cent versus 24 per cent in 2020, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)). 

This presents an urgent need for African nations to come together and build a more connected continent. 

At the recently concluded Connected Africa Summit, Fourteen Ministers in charge of Technology in Africa issued the Nairobi Declaration on Fostering a Connected and Empowered Africa.

The Ministers who convened at the Ministerial Exclusive Round Table Forum at Connected Africa Summit 2024 under the leadership of Kenya’s Minister of ICT Eliud Owalo, deliberated on harnessing the potential of digital technologies for the advancement of the continent, endorsing a collaborative vision for a digitally empowered Africa.

Emphasizing the centrality of digitalization and digital infrastructure to modern economies, the Ministers pledged to harness digital infrastructure and technologies to drive inclusive economic growth of at least 5% annually within the next decade.

The time for action is now

A unified action to bridge the digital divide and propel the continent forward into a digitally empowered future is indeed needed. 

In 2019, organisations like the World Bank Group launched the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) initiative aiming to ensure every individual, business, and government in Africa is digitally enabled by 2030, in support of the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy 2020-2030. The initiative supports a comprehensive approach to developing a vibrant, safe and inclusive digital economy in Africa, combining the development of infrastructure for connectivity, building digital platforms for access to finance and markets, creating new markets for entrepreneurs, and skills while also building regulatory frameworks that address emerging risks, such as competition, privacy, and security.

In November last year, Huawei also revealed that additional investment of more than Ksh 10 trillion, (USD 100 billion) in internet infrastructure, policies and ecosystems is necessary to raise the degree of digital access in Kenya and across Africa in general. 

Martin Creaner, Director General of the World Broadband Association (WBBA), also notes that the world will add another 243 million fixed connections by 2027, most of them fiber. He says the African continent is in the fast lane of broadband connectivity with a faster rate of growth and greater potential for growth than any other region of the world. To realize this potential, Creaner, says the industry will need more investors to fund connectivity initiatives while encouraging regulators and governments to step up policies prioritizing fiber infrastructure rollout and sharing.

Regulations in fact play a very critical role in advancing these calls. At the Connected Africa Summit, COMESA Secretary General Chilese Mpundu Kapwepwe emphasized the need for collective action towards seamless and harmonized ICT regulations. To reach the continent’s fullest potential, Kapwepwe said African nations must unite.

During the  International Telecommunications Week Africa (ITW Africa) in Nairobi last year, Telkom Kenya CEO Mugo Kibati also called on regulators across Africa to put in place the right policies and regulatory frameworks to close the digitalization gap in Africa. 

Indeed, digitalization is one of the greatest transformative opportunities of our time yet too few people in Africa can truly access its benefits. The time for action is now.

Nixon Kanali is the Tech Editor for Africa Business Communities, also the founder of TechTrendsKE.




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