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Infrastructure, the catalyst for a fully connected Africa

October 8, 2012

Vinod Kumar   

Former Managing Director and Group CEO Tata Communications

I was reading an article on the BBC the other day about filling the technology skills gap in Africa. I was not surprised to see people talking about how Africa has become a hotbed of technology growth. However, it was refreshing to hear some real stories about the market and growth across the continent. Too often we hear about a fictitious fisherman using his mobile phone to trade his catches, and how this is changing how he works. The anecdote doesn’t show the full picture, so it was great to see the realities of the tech market in Africa covered.

The technology industry is growing at approximately 20% annually. Africa demonstrates massive consumer appetite for technology, for example the number of mobile users is set to reach 735 million by the end of 2012 according to the GSMA. The African market is showing growth today and the signs of explosive growth tomorrow that few others can compete with.

Markets like Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria are driving technology in new directions. In Nairobi, the government is promoting the creation of Konza City, a ‘techno city’ that the Kenyan government hopes will be the Silicon Valley of East Africa. The Silicon Cape Initiative, a Western Cape tech NGO is helping to develop a high-technology district in the region to attract top technical experts and entrepreneurs to South Africa.

Growing Africa’s connectivity is the key to nurturing Africa’s technology development. African governments and the private sector are investing heavily in communications infrastructure, with an estimated $21 billion being plowed into telecom-related infrastructure. This investment has been put to use on project such as Eassy (Eastern Africa Submarine cable system) and Wacs (West Africa cable system), which help grow the communications market in Africa and support further technological progress.

For us, we’ve seen opportunities in South Africa with Neotel as well as across the continent. We are on the verge of a technology renaissance in Africa. Through our partner Main One, we’ve delivered video connectivity in Nigeria and shown that it is possible to connect Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood with video services. Our recently completed global network ring is improving Africa’s connectivity with the rest of the world, and we hope feeding these new technology developments.

I believe this is just the first wave and as more infrastructure is put in place across the continent, we will see a new, fully connected Africa. Communications is the foundation to feed Africa’s this next wave of tech development.