[Column] Diego Gutierrez: Leading Africa into the digital age and transforming lives through technology
17-08-2022 13:13:00 | by: Bob Koigi | hits: 1854 | Tags:

New research shows that the telecoms sector is set to be the fastest-growing industry in Africa over the next five years. Growth in telecoms spurs growth in other sectors as societies become more digitally enabled and technology-focused; transforming everything from financial services and healthcare to retail and education, the same research explains.

In regions of the continent where affordable and reliable access to the internet is available, we are seeing digital platforms evolve into multi-faceted ecosystems that bring together consumers, service providers and stakeholders by facilitating access to new markets, enabling critical information sharing and boosting financial inclusion.

Across our Africa markets, Vodacom’s various services and technological innovations are changing lives for the better. Through strategic partnerships and ongoing investment, Vodacom is working towards ensuring that all African citizens have access to the connectivity they need to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Boosting affordable access to connectivity

In partnership with Facebook, Vodacom has upgraded 120 rural sites in Tanzania to widen access to 4G connectivity. This improves the population’s level of access to important digital solutions and services.  

In any society, reliable connectivity can be the difference between life and death. In 2021, Vodacom DRC accelerated the Mum & Baby maternal health service - a free-of-charge mobile health intervention service for Vodacom DRC subscribers.

It’s not just about providing access to connectivity - it’s also about inclusion. Vodacom Lesotho has launched the Insight Centre, a library for blind and visually impaired persons. Supported by 4G technology, the digital library enables visually impaired persons to access important information; driving digital inclusion among those living with disabilities and enabling them to lead independent, autonomous lives.

Platforms for financial inclusion

Despite financial inclusion being acknowledged as a cornerstone of development, research from the World Bank reveals that an estimated 2 billion adults worldwide still don’t have a basic bank account. Mobile money, however, is levelling the playing field. According to the GSMA, Africa now accounts for 70% of the world’s $1 trillion mobile money value. The value of Africa’s mobile money transactions reached $701.4 billion in 2021.

We have various projects and initiatives in partnership with different stakeholders in our markets that form part of this mobile money revolution. Projects like M-Kulima, a mobile phone-based solution that connects smallholder farmers to customers and markets, financial assistance and a wealth of information and resources so that they are empowered to make more informed decisions and boost their productivity.

Similarly, M-Koba, a group savings solution in partnership with the Tanzania Postal Bank, allows group members – particularly women, who often remain excluded from access to financial services – to save, invest and apply for microloans.

Digitalising small businesses and enabling entrepreneurs

SMEs make up around two thirds of Africa’s formally employed workforce and these businesses play a major role in the continent’s economic success. Yet many of these businesses struggle to get off the ground, which is why it is so important to put various policies in place and create different platforms and services to help them succeed.

M-Pesa offers a range of SME solutions, including the M-Pesa super-app, which can be used to manage business transactions and pay salaries, access pensions, agricultural subsidies and government grants. These solutions reduce many of the risks related to running cash-based businesses. The M-Pesa super-app also connects SMEs with each other and makes it easier for customers to do business with different SMEs.

Connecting schools to improve teaching and learning

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight education as one of the most powerful and impactful vehicles for sustainable development. Technologies have the potential to democratise education, but this potential can only be realised when access is addressed.

In Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania, the Instant Schools For Africa initiative is providing millions of young people with free access to online learning materials developed in conjunction with Learning Equality – a leading not-for-profit provider of open-source educational technology solutions. The initiative was launched by the Vodafone Foundation and it is one of the Foundation’s largest philanthropic programmes in its 25-year history. Similarly, our partnership with the African Child Projects (ACP), which provides internet connectivity and computing devices to 50 schools across 10 regions in Tanzania, aims to make a difference in resource-constrained environments.

Africa has an incredible opportunity to harness the digital economy as a driver of growth and innovation. Across the continent, we can see how the right technologies and partnerships deliver impact; accelerating socioeconomic development and connecting citizens and businesses to more services, more information and more opportunities. 

Diego Gutierrez is the Chief Officer of International Markets at Vodacom