We at Cisco had the opportunity to participate in the World Economic Forum in Africa last week (May 5-7/2010) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and not only discuss Africa’s problems and challenges but to experience them firsthand: the traffic, the lack of infrastructure and the poverty.
But despite the huge problems and challenges the continent is facing, the overall mood of the participants was very positive, focused more on how to solve the problems and less on discussing them.
One of the more frequently discussed ideas during the sessions was Africa’s lack of integration with the overall global economy and the continent’s marginalization. For example, only 3.5 % of global exports come from Africa and Africa receives less than 1% of global foreign direct investments. And if we consider Africa has a 1 billion population of which 60 percent are young people, something needs to be done and be done now.
Rethinking Africa’s competitiveness: Yvon Le Roux, Cisco vice-president for Africa and Levant
ICT could play an important role inending the continent’s marginalization and further insert Africa into the global economy. This was our contribution to the dialogue in Tanzania both at public and private sessions and at the private meetings we had with governments and businesses from the region. We made the point clear: Africa has emerged from the global crisis in strong shape and economic growth is set to continue, but current rates of growth will not be enough to decisively reduce the gap with the rest of the world. Broadband’s potential for productivity improvements can boost economic growth and help narrow this gap. The dramatic increase in international bandwidth that the new submarine cables offer is very timely and the opportunity it represents should be integrated into national development strategies.
Despite this, currently the average broadband penetration in Africa is only 1.5% with South Africa leading at approximately about 3%. This is why the continent needs to bring Internet to their citizens and do it with urgency, to improve agriculture, banking, healthcare, education and other sectors. Additionally, increased broadband access can slow the urbanization process, which is contributing to growing slums in major African cities.
Broadband infrastructure is the foundation for the knowledge society and Africa can not be left behind this time. We at Cisco really believe broadband infrastructure and connectivity can help solve some of the more pressing problems in Africa.
Watch a perspective from David Meads, Cisco’s country manager for South Africa, filmed on site in Tanzania
Yvon Le Roux, Cisco vice-president for Africa and Levant, from Tanzania