Today, African countries are entering the digital age. African governments are aware of how much more powerful they can be if their citizens have access to technology and the Internet. Many African countries now see information and communication technologies (ICTs) as an important tool that can be used to improve economic growth, attract investment, empower citizens and increase transparency in government.
One African country leading the way is South Africa. The African nation has taken aim at becoming one of the world’s top 20 countries for broadband penetration by 2015 under its “e-skills – A National Development priority” plan which was launched in 2007.
South African President Jacob Zuma said: “This vision is not only about e-skills but also about creating an environment where African talents can realise their full potential in the fields of science, technology and innovation.”
President Zuma’s statement echoes African Development Bank research that African countries are doing very little to harness information and communication technologies (ICTs), which has resulted in Africa lagging behind other developing regions. The African Development Bank says ICTs could help increase African trade by up to $100 billion annually.
The African Development Bank has announced its plan to invest $743 million (U.S.) into building broadband infrastructure across the continent over the next five years through its regional telecommunications company – the African Telecommunications Union (ATU).
“Each year, our support for broadband infrastructure will be increased based on demand,” said Ebrahim Mohamed Bham, director general of African Development Bank in a statement.
In 2009, African Union officials adopted an African ICT Master Plan meant to connect all African countries to broadband by the year 2020. The African Union’s AU Commission says that ICTs can “accelerate economic development and regional integration” on the continent, bringing education and health services closer to more people in Africa.
The African Union has also identified six priority areas for African governments: expanding access, promoting equitable access, expanding skills and capacity building, strengthening infrastructure and institutional frameworks, developing a regulatory environment that stimulates growth and innovation of ICTs across all sectors, and integrating ICTs into every aspect of development planning.
A 2007 study by McKinsey Global Institute says Africa is at the bottom of worldwide broadband usage. The African continent has just 0.5 percent of the world’s total broadband subscribers, according to McKinsey researchers. By contrast, Europe has nearly 30 percent of the world’s share in 2009 while North America boasts 29 percent.
The African Development Bank report also stated that Africa is home to 4 percent of all ICT professionals in the world with only Nigeria claiming more than 100,000 ICT professionals. This number falls below 2-percent globally when compared with other developing regions such as East Asia and Pacific or South Asia – which have 31-percent and 24-percent penetration respectively.
However, African countries are making efforts to catch up to their neighbours across the ocean by investing heavily into technology infrastructure development programmes especially wireless communication. African governments have also been looking into African solutions to African problems. African developers are making African-based technology for African consumers.
In the past, African governments tended to focus on basic telephony, but now recognition is growing of the importance of mobile technologies as a universal platform for enabling e-commerce and e-governance services in Africa. The opportunities this presents for generating active economic engagement among citizens, private sector actors and government agencies has caught the attention of many African countries who are now under pressure from their citizens to create local content that will address local needs.
Information communication technology (ICT) has become a powerful enabler of social and economic transformation in Africa. In particular, its support for the development strategies at national levels is giving African countries hope that ICT can help accelerate African development.
ITU has reported African governments are investing heavily in the telecom sector with African online subscriptions accounting for more than two-thirds of worldwide growth. African countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan and Mozambique, have adopted broadband targets at the national level to encourage infrastructure investments into advanced technologies like fiber optics and WiMAX. However, African leaders say there is still a long way to go before they achieve their goals. The United Nations says broadband penetration rates in Africa remain low compared with other developing regions; however, they are quickly catching up as African governments acknowledge the potential for ICTs to drive economic growth across the continent by increasing productivity and boosting trade within Africa and beyond its borders.
ICT4 African Development is a program driven by the African Union, African ministers and heads of state from all over the continent. ICT4AD aims to create a single African platform for sharing knowledge and best practices on how African governments can harness information and communication technology (ICT) as vehicles for economic development. It also seeks to develop African expertise in ICT management at both the policy level and implementation, especially among Africa’s growing IT workforce.
e-Readiness is a measure adopted by the World Economic Forum that reflects a country’s preparedness to exploit opportunities offered by information and communications technologies (ICTs) for enhancing productivity. It includes government policies that support e-business, education, skills and technological adoption. 2015, some 35 percent of African nations improved their e-readiness scores, while only 15 percent experienced declines.
Mobile phone penetration in Africa has grown exponentially over the last two decades and African citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to get online. African governments have also been looking into African solutions to African problems. African developers are making African-based technology for African consumers. Where only 2 percent of the population had Internet access 17 years ago, today 16 out of 50 African nations boast Internet penetration rates above 40 percent; another 11 countries register between 10 and 39 percent; while 23 countries still fall below 10 percent. ICTs, especially mobile cellular phones, provide an inexpensive platform for accelerating financial inclusion by reaching users who previously were excluded from formal banking services due to distance or lack of identity documentation.
Recent e-governance initiatives like One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and E-Schools programs in African countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi are attempts to bridge the digital divide with solutions tailored for African problems. OLPC’s aim is to provide laptop computers and Internet connectivity to children throughout the world who do not have access to these technologies. It aims at enabling children in developing countries learn by utilizing new computing devices. Computers became available in rural areas of African countries where previously there was no significant online presence due largely to the lack of human resources and physical infrastructure limitations on site
The African Union has also been coming up with African solutions for African problems, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). African leaders are pursuing the creation of a free trade area that will provide duty-free access to goods and services across African borders. The African Union says CFTA could lift intra-Africa trade by 52 percent, which would create an African economic bloc with a combined GDP of $6.7 trillion.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is currently implementing Technology for African development -T4AD- program aimed at providing African governments with policy advice on how ICT can be used as vehicles for economic development. T4AD’s core products include: Assessing Africa’s eReadiness; Devising national broadband plans; Developing capacity building strategies; Formulating technology policies; Investigating African content, software and ICT hubs; and, Netpreneur Prize African competition.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has also come up African Union e-network for African states to interact with each other and the African citizenry. This network is designed to provide a secure, reliable and user-friendly platform for African governments to share information on development initiatives, coordinate responses to disaster situations and support regional integration. The network would also help African citizens access government services and express their opinions on economic and social policy issues of common concern via electronic means such as email or chat rooms
The Africa Portal was launched by the African Union Commission in July 2005, in order to share information among African nations about different projects taking place across Africa. It’s goal is African integration through African solutions for African problems. African governments are taking African-based technology into their own hands in order to meet African needs. The African Portal makes it easy for African citizens to access information about African initiatives, submit ideas and monitor progress
Africa has come a long way from the days when only 2 percent of its population had Internet access 17 years ago. Today, 16 out of 50 African nations boast Internet penetration rates above 40 percent; another 11 countries register between 10 and 39 percent; while 23 countries still fall below 10 percent. ICTs, especially mobile cellular phones, provide an inexpensive platform for accelerating financial inclusion by reaching users who previously were excluded from formal banking services due to distance or of identity documentation
The CFTA is expected to be a game-changer for African trade. It will provide duty-free access to goods and services across African borders; create an African economic bloc with a combined GDP of $6 trillion; and eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of all products. Moreover, the CFTA would allow 80 million African consumers (almost 20% of Africans) to enjoy duty-free shopping when traveling within Africa by 2018
With more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, this technology has revolutionized banking practices in African countries. M-Pesa has brought banking services directly into remote African villages via SMS text messaging. This service was launched in Kenya in 2007 and accounted for 30% of the country’s GDP in 2013. The success of M-Pesa is attributed to the African culture of trust and strong community ties. African trust levels are higher than those in Western countries, thus Africans trusted that M-Pesa would deliver on its promise to provide safety for their money
With more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, cell phones have revolutionized banking practices across African countries. Mobile banking services such as m-pisa (Kenya), m-pesa (Tanzania) and Wizzit (South Africa) allow users to pay bills, receive salaries and transfer money by simply sending a text message with their unique code.
Mobile technology has also helped improve transparency in government systems where citizens can access public records online anywhere at anytime without going to the physical offices to check records
With more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, African governments are also exploring ways to integrate ICTs into their elections. The African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) launched a project in 2014 aimed at increasing African women representation in legislatures and other political positions. The project called i-Women aims to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) like SMS messaging and online social media networks such as Facebook and Whatsapp to encourage African women into politics through increased voter awareness
Most African countries have recognized the need for policies that support ICTs. For example, South African President Jacob Zuma introduced Digital Terrestrial Television with an aim of speeding up the country’s transition to digital migration. The African Union (AU) has also adopted policies that will help strengthen African economies; improve African education systems; and boost African agriculture, health care and information communication technology sectors
ICTs like mobile phones have the potential of transforming African society for economic development. With 900 million cell phone users in Africa, it is not surprising that African governments are exploring ways to integrate ICTs into their elections. For example, South African President Jacob Zuma introduced Digital Terrestrial Television with an aim of speeding up the country’s transition to digital migration
The African Union (AU) has recognized the need for policies that support ICTs. The AU has adopted policies that will help strengthen African economies; improve African education systems; and boost African agriculture, health care and information communication technology sectors. African countries have also adopted policies that promote ICTs in African education systems. Multinational companies have also partnered with African governments to train African engineers in Information Communication Technology
Mobile banking services allow users to pay bills, receive salaries, transfer money by simply sending a text message with their unique code. With more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, African governments are exploring ways to integrate ICTs into their elections
With more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, African governments like South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma introduced Digital Terrestrial Television with an aim of speeding up the country’s transition to digital migration
African countries like Kenya has recognized the need for policies that support African ICTs. African countries like Kenya has also adopted policies that promote African education systems. African governments and multinational companies have partnered to train African engineers in Information Communication Technology (ICT)
African countries like South Africa and the United States of America (USA) and African Union (AU) have all recognized the need for policies that help African economies; African health care; African information communication technology sectors. Multinational companies have also partnered with African governments to train African engineers in Information Communication Technology (ICT).