‘Govt Policies Essential for Digital Development’

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By Emma Okonji

The Managing Director, Middle East and Africa at Vertiv, Mr. Pierre Havenga, has called on African governments to come up with policies that are essential for digital development and advancement among African countries.

Havenga, who spoke at a recent webinar meeting organised by Vertiv, said such policies became necessary in the areas of smartphone penetration, mobile money adoption, internet connectivity/social media and digital transformation, owing to the huge population African, which he said, has always been an advantage for the continent.

According to him, smartphone penetration in sub-Saharan Africa is the second largest, with an estimated smartphone adoption 67 per cent by 2025, up from 45 per cent in 2018.

He estimated there would be more than 600 million new smartphone subscribers in 2025, with nearly two-thirds coming from Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa.

Giving the African statistics of mobile money adoption, Havenga said in 2019, sub-Sahara Africa alone recorded 469 million registered mobile money accounts, which was an increase of 45 per cent and that 181 million of the total registered accounts were active, representing 49 per cent, with a transaction volume of 23.8 billion, representing 64 per cent and $456.3 billion value of transaction, representing 66 per cent.

In the area of social media and internet users in Africa, Havenga said the statistics shows that with a population of 1.32 billion people on social media in urban Africa, representing 43 per cent, the population of mobile phone connections alone was 1.08 billion, representing 81 per cent, while penetration of internet users reached 453.2 million, representing 34 per cent, and the active social media users in Africa, reached 217.5 million, representing 16 per cent penetration.

According to him, collocation data centres would be the hidden nexus of Africa’s digital revolution, with multi-tenant data centre predicted to increase in Africa.

He therefore said that government support, through key policies, would be essential for capitalising on digital development and advancement, considering the huge population of Africa.

With Africa’s digital economy taking off exponentially, the continent must ready itself to maximise the potential dividends of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement, experts had said. Key to this effort will be connectivity, data and digitisation and innovation among others, according to a report by the African Development Bank.

“Africa can achieve a digital single market…It is a journey and we need to break it up into doable bits, “African Development Bank Vice-president, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation Pierre Guislain, had said.

Also, the World Bank Digital Director Dr. Boutheina Guermazi said: “ICT and digital literacy is not a luxury. It is an integral part of how we view development,” adding that the foundations of the digital economy – connectivity, data and voice, would depend on a fully integrated digital infrastructure.”

With the ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, the possibility of new markets offer tantalising new avenues for tech start-ups and e-businesses and a combined GDP of over $600 billion.

The internet has opened doors to access information and technology, a key component of accelerating the pace of the digital economy and connecting markets. Interconnection and interoperability create bigger markets which in turn attract investors.

The mobile phone industry is an example of the dynamism of the sector in Africa. Mobile phone subscriptions have grown in Africa from 87 million in 2005 to 760 million in 2017, growing 20 per cent per annum. This is the fastest growing market in the world as well as the one with the most potential. Mobile network coverage ranges from 10 to 99 per cent in Africa – an average of 70 per cent.

Africa’s pioneering efforts in the FInTech space are illustrated by the fact that around half the world’s mobile money providers operate in sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 80 per cent of adults have a mobile phone. By 2020, the value of Africa’s mobile money industry is projected to top $14 billion.