Africa – fast realising ICT is an enabler of future economic growth

Today, more than 70% of the world’s citizens live in societies that have just begun their digitisation journey.

April 17, 2012

Today, more than 70% of the world’s citizens live in societies that have just begun their digitisation journey. As the individuals and enterprises in these societies continue to progress in developing their own digitisation capabilities, they will only increase and accelerate these economic and social benefits. This is according to the 2012 Global Information Technology Report*, and it is a sentiment that is mirrored by MTN Business.

“South Africa has for many years been seen as the gateway to the African continent and while certainly in many cases it still is, other African countries are fast finding their own momentum,” says Johnny Aucamp, General Manager: Strategic Relations and Business Development Africa at MTN Business. “In fact, looking at the latest 2012 Global Information Technology Report, one could go as far as to say that in many cases, Africa is fast-tracking the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to advance the progress of society and business.”

According to The Networked Readiness Index in the Report, overall, Europe remains at the forefront of the efforts to leverage ICT to transform its economy and society. In fact, 7 European counties are positioned in the top 10. More interesting is the rise of countries such as Tunisia and Mauritius – who are positioned 50th and 53rd respectively, ahead of the usual African front runner, South Africa, who came in at 72, compared to 61 in the previous report.

Continues Aucamp; “It is estimated that even a 10% increase in broadband penetration can deliver a 0.1 – 1.4% boost in GDP and certainly countries such as Tunisia and Mauritius are benefiting from creating an enabling environment for ICT development. The same can be said for some of their African counterparts who may not have ranked high in the Index, but are certainly on the right path in terms of understanding that ICT development is a key pillar for economic development and, as such, are creating the necessary infrastructure and regulatory frameworks to drive ICT innovation.”

Kenya and the rest of East Africa, including the likes of Rwanda and Tanzania, have certainly benefited from access to the undersea cables and are driving the growth of ICT. In fact, at the recent Connected Kenya Summit**, it was highlighted that Kenya aims to aggressively drive growth in the ICT sector by 2017. The government wants ICT contributing up to 25% to the country’s GDP, and every Kenyan connected to the Internet – ultimately becoming one of the top ICT hubs in the world. The same can be said for Ghana and Cameroon where IT enabled services are seen as one of the key sectors for enhancing economic growth.

“While Ethiopia ranked 130 in the Networked Index, it is another country that is using ICT to drive development,” adds Aucamp. “There is a willingness by government to utilise and optimise ICT to enhance business development, create jobs and reduce poverty. A recent example is the creation of the Ethiopia ICT park that will feature a business zone and a knowledge park as well as commercial and institutional facilities to create a virtual ICT city.”

“While certainly the Global Information Technology report paints a somewhat gloomy picture of the Networked readiness of South Africa, it does however point to the massive progress made in the rest of the African continent. Africa is fast realising that ICT is an enabler of future economic growth and while there are certainly challenges, Africa can look forward to ICT changing the way it communicates, operates and grows. As devices become more available, costs continue to decrease and broadband connectivity is increased and services more widespread, Africa can finally benefit from ‘always available’ connectivity,” concludes Aucamp.

*2012 Global Information Technology Report – Living in a Hyperconnected World, World Economic Forum and Insead, 2012
**National ICT Master Plan, Ministry of Information and Communication, Connected Kenya 2012 Summit