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Africa’s most active ICT regions

May 17, 2013 • Lists

Based on information being supplied to media, Africa’s ICT industry is growing – boosted by the advent of mobile product and services, but sustaining this momentum is dependent on the identification and implementation of the right investment in ICT, skills and innovation, as well as connectivity.

Africa's most active ICT regions. (Image source: Africa telecommunications via Shutterstock.com)

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013, South Africa ranks 70th out of 144 economies surveyed.

In the global audit, sub-Saharan Africa is not faring much better either, as the report suggested that a number of regions are not doing enough to boost connectivity. “Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa still suffer from a serious lag despite infrastructure improvements, an expansion of coverage and a push into e-government.”

The cost of technology was also cited as a factor for the slow growth in Africa. “In sub-Saharan Africa, costly access to technology, a low skills base and unfavourable business conditions are among the chief obstacles,” the report said.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says that there are 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions. This year there are virtually as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world. Mobile-cellular penetration rates stands at 96% globally and 89% in developing countries.

In Africa 16% of people are using the Internet and there is a broad gap in terms of fixed-broadband penetration rates – with 6.1% in developing countries (and less than 1% in Sub-Saharan Africa), compared with 27.2% in developed countries.

At Microsoft’s bi-annual Tech Ed conference, held recently in Durban, South Africa, Louis Otieno, former General Manager for Microsoft Corporation for East and Southern Africa and current head of legal and corporate affairs, spoke frankly ofAfrica’s challenges. He reiterated the quote that “Africa is blessed with challenges”.

“The first challenge that we have is that Africa is a huge continent. It is great that we have broadband now, but where have they all landed? We have broadband, but it is limited to urban areas and it is a huge continent. We need to look at other affordable technology to compliment the technology from the West, such as White Space which is currently on trial in Kenya. It requires less power and can even be powered by solar energy. Our issues are unique and we need the ability and capability to address them. Our problems are so fundamental that they can often solve the world’s problems,” said Otieno.

In this list, ITNewsAfrica takes a look at the ICT activity of various countries acrossAfrica, we explore regions that are making serious inroads into the ICT sector, who continue to engage and embrace technology trends and demonstrate the continent’s capability.

We have ranked these regions based on coverage, relevance of news and impact this news has had on markets and economies.

Nigeria

Nigeria is widely acknowledged to be the most populous country in Africa and is no doubt a bustling metropolis within the world of technology.

According to Internet World Stats by mid-year 2012 the country had 48,366,179 internet users, representing 28,4% penetration into the population.

Despite sporadic dispute between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and mobile service providers over alleged poor service delivery (with deadlines drawn up, operating taxes issued and fines being imposed on service providers – as well as a ban on promotions and lotteries), the country has taken massive strides in establishing the credibility and capacity of its ICT sector.

It has also been reported that subscribers have been given until June 30th to register their SIM cards or face being switched off by the country’s networks.

The Regulator reported to have stated that there are over 100 million connected and active mobile lines. Earlier this year the body announced that by the end of December 2012, the country had experienced a rise in overall mobile phone subscribers by nearly three million users.

According the telecom regulator’s report, Nigeria now has more than 113 million active users in the country through the end of 2012, an increase of 110.4 million from the previous month’s end in November.

The NCC said that “teledensity has reached 80.85 percent, versus 68.68 percent in January 2012.”

Overall, the GSM subscriber base grew by almost three million new customers in December, “For a total 109.8 million, while the CDMA sector continued to contract, to 2.9 million customers from 3.0 million in November.”

Several established telecommunications service providers, including Airtel Nigeria and Globacom, have publicised their recent efforts to compete.

Globacom has started an upgrading drive of its current network and announced that they have signed a $750 million contract with Chinese ICT solutions provider Huawei Technologies. It also released a global Wi-Fi bundle.

Airtel Nigeria recently introduced a dual purpose single recharge card for both voice and data services. The company also brokered a deal with ‘Whatsapp’ to provide data application packages to subscribers.

Recent media reports have spoken of the Nigerian National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the partnership with Mastercard to rollout 13 million MasterCard-branded smart cards, as well as progress made with regard to the advancement of Mobile Number Portability (MNP).

Kenya

Inhabited by over 43-million residents, Kenya is one of Africa’s fastest growing countries in terms of telecommunications infrastructure. Together with South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, Kenya plays a critical role in driving innovation across the continent.

The country is home to inventor Anthony Mutua who developed a rather ingenuous way of charging mobile phones – using the power of pedestrians. His invention comprises of ultra-thin chips of crystal which are fitted to the bottom of a shoe’s sole. As the user walks, it generates electricity through the pressure exerted when it is stepped on.

The chips costs around $46, and charges the phone through an extension cable that runs from the shoe to the pocket. Recently the project has been granted $6,000 for further funding by Kenya’s National Council of Science and Technology, as well as the promise of mass production to reach out to a larger market.

The country has continued to entrench is reputation for the growth of the mobile money market (having introduced and established both M-Pesa and Ushahidi), with companies like Essar Telecom and Western Union taking a proactive stance to capitalise on opportunity.

Recently news emerged about the country’s construction of what is touted as ‘the most modern city in Africa’ in Konza, near Nairobi.

*Kenya is Africa’s fourth largest country in terms of Internet users with a total of just over 12 million by mid-year 2012. Nations ranked ahead of Kenya are Nigeria (48-milliion), Egypt (29 –million) and Morocco (almost 16,5-million).

*Kenya’s Internet usage has exploded in the last decade. In 2000 only 200 000 citizens had access to the Internet. The rapid growth can be attributed to lower bandwidth costs and the arrival of several undersea cables to the East African coast.

*Kenya has one fixed-line supplier, Telkom Kenya, which previously formed part of the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation. France Telecom now holds 51% of Telkom Kenya’s shares.

* Safaricom is Kenya’s largest mobile network provider. According to the company’s website it has a subscriber base of over 17 million. Most of their subscribers are resident in major metropolitan areas such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru. The company has a net income of about £171-million.

* The average age of the 10.4-million users connected to the Internet ranges between 15-34 years old, while 21% fall into the 18-24 age bracket. Over 56% of the Internet users are college or university educated, and spend 70 minutes on the Internet per visit.

Tanzania

Tanzania, officially called the United Republic of Tanzania, is one of the fastest growing African nations in terms of ICT development and mobile deployment. With a population of over 42-million, there is an incredible scope for growth in all sectors.

But while the country is on a steady growth path to better Internet connections and ICT, development is still required and improvements made.

Recently the country’s Minister of Communication, Science and Technology, Professor Makame Mbarawa warned mobile service operators who provide inadequate service to customers, without a valid explanation, could face fines or imprisonment.

* While Africa’s Internet penetration is only 13.5%, which is way below the world average of 32.7%, Tanzania does rank as one of Africa’s top countries when it comes to the number of users on the net. The country ranks 6th on World Internet Stats’ chart with 5.9-million users, just below South Africa with 6.8-million users.

* In December 2000, Tanzania only had 115 000 people connected to the Internet, but that number has grown significantly since then. In a recent study, it was revealed that more than 5.9-million citizens now access the Internet on a daily basis, out of the country’s population of over 42-million people. That is a penetration rate of 11.5% of the population.

Although the country has a large number of citizens with access to the Internet, the figures for social network Facebook tells a different story. Facebook’s global user numbers are bordering on close to a billion, but Tanzania only had 414 540 Facebook users on 31 Dec ember 2011. That represents a 1% penetration rate.

It is no secret that mobile Internet usage is on the rise in Africa, and Tanzania is a good example of that. In 2010, the nation only had 3 150 fixed broadband connections. That is one connection for every 0.001 people, in a country where 5.9-million people have access to the Internet.

Tanzania also has a large number of websites registered in Tanzania, with 339 712 that have the .tz Internet TLD. That is 7.79 IP addressed for every 1000 people.

Recently Microsoft announced a TV white spaces pilot project in collaboration with the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and UhuruOne to provide affordable wireless broadband access to university students and faculty in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The collaboration will also enable UhuruOne, a local Internet service provider, to offer Windows 8 device and service packages to universities in Dar es Salaam.

Additionally the country’s Director of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, Dr Zaipuna Yonah, said the country is in a consultation process with experts to formulate new ICT laws to protect users against a surge in cybercrime.

Egypt

In 2011 Egypt made worldwide headlines as a revolution took hold and anti-government protestors vented their anger and frustration against the regime. It was a time when the world held its collective breath in anticipation of what could or would transpire.

Almost two years later, the former government toppled and reports of ex-President Hosni Mubarak on charges relating to the deaths of over 800 protestors, the country is once again in the news.

This time, Egypt’s top appeals court has overturned a previous guilty verdict imposed on Mubarak and ordered a retrial. Speculation is rife as to what implications this will have on Egypt’s turbulent journey on the way to democracy.

Aside from the political and social discourse and change initiated through the country’s revolution, the event shed global light on the impact of social media and the role this powerful resource plays in modern society.

Most recently the Open Source Strategy Committee has stipulated its aim to integrate and use the open source software-based applications as a national strategy. There is also talk of the efforts of authorities in trying to establish a fourth mobile services license.

The pace of development and growth of technology and the economy will likely depend on the buy-in of key role players including government and the business sector.

One of Egypt’s most well known technology powerhouses falls under the Sawiris family. Naguib Sawiris is the founder of Orascom Telecom Holding SAE and is reported to have a net worth of $2,5 billion.

Onsi Sawiris, who founded the Orascom Group, is reported to have a net worth of $2,17 billion.

According to research conducted by Analysys Mason, VoIP and video conferencing are gainining momentum and popularity in countries like Egypt.

Chris Tredger, Online Editor

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