Africa Connected: “Why wouldn’t the next Bill Gates come from Africa?”
As momentum builds in networking the continent, the benefits of connecting African communities become increasingly clear.
Imagine an Africa where farmers can always find the best price for their produce, where students in remote villages can interact with teachers thousands of miles away. Imagine an Africa where remote video consultations enable doctors to diagnose rural patients who would otherwise go untreated. Imagine an Africa where the great urban centers are safer for citizens thanks to modern surveillance systems. Imagine Africa Connected.
Yvon Le Roux, Vice President, Emerging Markets, Africa and Levant
All of these advances are possible and in reach. And the good news is that they all utilize the same fundamental utility – a broadband network infrastructure and the high-speed Internet access it enables.
Today, broadband penetration across the continent is exceedingly low — at about one percent in some countries, even lower in others. Incredibly, South Africa is our most advanced with 3% penetration. By increasing the access of broadband, millions of Africans will benefit from the economic and social gains that broadband offers. One recent study by the Boston Consulting Group estimates that when Internet penetration rises by 10 percent in emerging economies, it correlates with an incremental GDP increase of one to two percent.
The promise of broadband is clear. Countries that pursue connectivity will quickly move up the economic and social ladders. Those that don’t, risk being left behind. Now is the time to get Africa connected.
Strategies for Connecting African Communities
Here are a number of strategies that can be deployed at low cost to governments:
- Reform Marketplace Policies and Regulations. Simply put, monopolies are less likely to innovate and invest than companies actively competing. Those countries that have made great strides in broadband connectivity have jettisoned the regulatory framework designed for a telecommunications monopoly. Instead, they’ve begun treating networks as a critical competitive infrastructure. There is no denying that scalable, secure, high-speed network connectivity is emerging as the fourth utility.
- Promote Entrepreneurial Development and Content. Often the most effective method for success is helping others do what they do best. Governments can create policies that help technology entrepreneurs thrive. This includes promoting service provider competition and offering incentives for the creation of Internet-based businesses and services. As Brian Herilhy, president of SEACOM, the organization responsible for the new fiber-optic cable system connecting Africa’s East Coast so poignantly asked, “Why wouldn’t the next Bill Gates come from Africa?”
- Promote ICT Skills. Governments can help create the skilled workforce needed to a support growing network infrastructure by funding the teaching of Internet and Communications Technology in colleges, and by establishing programs to train new graduates. We are most proud of the role of the Cisco Network Academy Program, which is addressing the growing need for ICT professionals across Africa. Cisco boasts more than 1,100 Networking Academies across 49 countries in Africa and Levant, with more than 78,000 students — 30% of whom are female — and 1,900 instructors.
What are your thoughts about getting Africa connected?