In the past five years, Africa’s mobile phone market has rapidly expanded to become larger than either the EU or the United States with some 650 million subscribers. At the same time, Internet bandwidth has grown twentyfold as hundreds of thousands of kilometers of new cables have been laid across the continent to serve an increasing number of its 1 billion citizens.
The new access is quickly changing lives, driving entrepreneurship fueled in part by collaborative technology hubs, and delivering innovation and home-grown solutions for Africa.
In the new report eTransform Africa: The Transformational Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Africa, the authors follow that growth, documenting innovations in ICTs and advances in access for the population. They emphasize the need to build a competitive ICT industry to promote innovation, job creation, and boost the export potential of African companies.
“The Internet and mobile phones are transforming the development landscape in Africa, injecting new dynamism in key sectors. The challenge is to scale up these innovations and success stories for greater social and economic impacts across Africa over the next decade,” says Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region.
Innovations in 8 key areas
The eTransform Africa report identifies best practices in the use of ICTs in eight key areas: agriculture, climate change, education, financial services, government, health, ICT competitiveness, and trade facilitation and regional integration. For example:
- Agriculture: In Kenya, the Kilimo Salama program is providing crop insurance for farmers, using the M-PESA payment gateway, helping them to better manage natural hazards such as drought or excessive rainfall.
- Climate change adaptation: In Malawi, a deforestation project is training local communities to map their villages using GPS devices and empowering them to develop localized adaptation strategies by engaging communities.
- Financial services: In Senegal, SONATEL (a subsidiary of Orange) is one of the latest operators on the continent to launch a money transfer service that is enabling 200,000 subscribers to send and receive money using mobile phones.
- Health: In Mali, telemedicine is helping overcome the lack of trained healthcare workers and specialists in rural areas, specifically the IKON Tele-radiology program.
“This report not only sheds light on the path Africa is already on, but also encourages continued creative thinking in how to utilize ICTs to benefit more Africans,” says Gilbert Mbesherubusa, Acting Vice-President Operations, African Development Bank.
From trade facilitation to technology hubs
The report shows how countries such as Kenya and Senegal are implementing ICT-enabled trade facilitation initiatives and outlines the key role that Africa’s Regional Economic Communities can play in supporting greater regional integration for boosting economic growth and reducing costs.