Information and Communication Technology
One of the few growth areas in the world economy at the moment is the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. It is estimated that in the USA over the next 20 years there will be a short fall of millions to fill vacancies in the IT and ITC sectors. It is thus essential that other countries take up the slack. Already India and China have been very successful in attracting ICT contracts from Europe and America. It is now the time for Africa to seize these new business opportunities.
For decades Africa has been lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of average GDP and the development of a broad based economy. This is partly due to poor infrastructure, corrupt governments, banks that are keen to continue the profitable business of debt repayment, poor education systems, and the connivance of multinationals. This is all about to change.
Already companies are bidding to build more fiber optic lines to connect Africa to the rest of the world. SEACOM has laid cable all around the coast of Africa. At present it touches land at Accra in Ghana, Lagos in Nigeria, Cape Town in South Africa, Maputo in Mozambique, Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, Mombasa in Kenya and Djibouti. Other companies are busy laying the internet infrastructures that will allow Africa to not only go online but to truly compete with the rest of the world in the ICT market place.
At the same time there has been an upsurge in mobile phone and mobile device use in Africa. There are now in place several companies providing e-banking, e-commerce, e-learning, e-democracy and e-agriculture. Africa is one of the most rapidly expanding IT sectors in the world. Its citizens are catching on very quickly to the many benefits of ICT.
Africa is well positioned to gain a growing income from Business Process Outsourcing. Not only does it have the internet infrastructure in place but it also has the language abilities. There is a vast pool of Africans who claim English, French and Portuguese as their second language. There is also a sizeable community of Mandarin speakers in Africa. These language skills will prove to be decisive in the future for African BPO prospects.
Another encouraging sign for the African ICT scene is the growing number of computer manufacturers in Africa. The number of African countries capable of making computers as well as companies producing software and other IC applications for mobiles is driving Africa on. It is no longer a continent hopelessly lagging behind the rest of the world. This image that it has will change as it begins to grab more of the global ICT business opportunities.
In terms of education, ambitious plans are underway to provide all African school children with a laptop. This can be achieved by cloud technology that allows computers to be built cheaply that still perform complex and memory heavy tasks by using the ability to store data on the cloud. It is certain that future generations of Africans will be even more computer literate.
This website is devoted to ICT topics, to African internet development and to the role that Africa can play in the global digital age.
The increase being recorded within the Telecoms sector in Nigeria and Africa in particular, with within the brief span mobile connection started is enormous. Nigerian telecommunication compete favorably internationally when it comes to growth rate and can is the fastest-growing and the biggest in Africa. With unified licensing in place, service providers possess the capacity to diversify there services.
Need for a corresponding increase in Mobile Technology
There must be-a corresponding increase within it will be driven by the technology which, as the fast development within the sector was established.
With the next generation (2G) technology currently being used, it permits information to be transferred only at the price of 14.4 or 56kbps, with voice and Text Messaging carried at exactly the same pace. we also have found the utilization of GPRS(general packet radio service)making it possible for mobile phones to get connected permanently to networks at the pace of-a dial -up internet access. That makes it possible to get the net with our cell phones as well as deliver multimedia messaging (MMS).This service is quickly gaining grounds here. It’s also altered the way now GSM phones are used.
All these have to be carried at a better pace than what we have now. The technology is the much hyped 3rd generation cellular technology (3G).This lets data transfer at a greater rate of say 2mbps. This really is a minimum to use todays internet, which is full of multimedia content like graphics and videos. It will hopefully allow the entrepreneur element to develop in Africa and help produce growth and employment. There are many obstacles like this for the African online business, most manage to bypass them – for example one web development country I know even purchase a US IP address so they can communicate more easily with their customers (without the stigma that Nigerians unfortunately suffer with online).
This service became widely being used in Europe in 2004, with what I detect internationally, 3G technology is actually a developmental process which needs not be hurried and I still do not believe it was fully deployed there. These factors should be considered by service providers; quality of service provided, variety of the service, pricing, and quality of protection in a 3G network. The infrastructure must take place also.
3G when completely in place will absolutely shift we to the way use our GSM phones and enhance our mobile lifestyle in Nigeria. Having said all-that, the long run is extremely bright and promising for us. With large investments being made in-the sector, this year could be the start of the development for us. The future of cellular communication is 3G!
All across Africa, lots of governments are busy developing laws and systems to censor what people can do onine. Their main focus is usually social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. But one country is promising a different approach, Kenya has assured the world that it has no intention of heavily censoring it’s citizens online.
It is hoped by various free speech organisations that this has something of an effect on other African nations. Take for example Zimbabwe which this year is scheduled to hold it’s elections. In Zimbabwe the coalition government are actually using these social networks themselves in order to promote a referendum on the new national constitution.
The story is not so straight forward in other countries though. In Malawi, the EBill is the piece of legislation that enables the goverment to control access to the internet by individuals. In true Big Brother style, the state is appointing cyber- inspectors to monitor and inspect online activities.
Move over to Zambia and it’s a similar story, again using the pretext of blocking hate speech, although this is normally considered to be restricted to that speech directed at the rulers of the country. It is a very big job especially now with the introduction of cheaper smart mobile phones with internet capability. Africans love their phones and for many it’s their first experience of the internet in their daily lives.
There has been a huge increase in the amount of security enabled programs being used in these countries to bypass and protect the monitoring. However it’s also entertainment that is encouraging the use of proxies and VPNs to be used. For example a UK based VPN or proxy server can allow the user to watch British TV from a phone, laptop or mobile device. The cost is fairly low for these services although still expensive for most Africans.
Unfortunately it is a fact across the world that insurance is usually out of reach to those who need it most. This is most evident in places like Africa where for the vast majority of the population insurance is something that is just not accessible. However slowly this is beginning to change and there are signs that the insurance market is slowly beginning to offer cover to those vulnerable people who really need it.
It can’t be underestimated how important insurance could be to transforming the lives of the poor in Africa. For the wealthy in times of trouble they’ll usually have savings, pensions and even credit to fall back on. All these things simply don’t exist for the poor in Africa. A crop failure, an illness or perhaps even an accident to the main breadwinner can push subsistence families into the depths of poverty almost over night.
The solution is a model developed by the insurance market called – microinsurance. These small level and inexpensive insurance policies are similar to the popular mobile microloans which have brought much needed investments into the poorer areas of Africa. Today as this article is written more than 30 of the top 50 insurers in the world offer some sort of microinsurance policy in developing nations.
It’s important in many ways to the economy beyoundoffering a simple safety net to the poor. It is a fact that people who have some sort of insurance behind them are more likely to take business risks and possibly provide work and employment. Also insurance opens the door to traditional sources of credit from the banking sector like loans, mortgage and private investment.
There is also evidence that the insurance market itself is also providing direct employment opportunities. Throughout Africa there is a growing number of self employed insurance agents who are bringing microinsurance policies to their communities. The entrpreneurial spirit is much more lilkely to flourish in this sort of environment and the internet is also bringing opportunities. Using simple technology like VPNs and proxy servers, Africans can expand globally check this link for details on simple technology that is being used now to expand their markets .
There are many people who believe that one of the biggest chances that Africa has to develop and vastly improve the standard of living there is the internet. There is no doubt that throughout the world there is a huge correlation between successful developed countries and internet usage in those countries. Of course you could argue that it is merely representative of prvious success which enables the infrastructure to be developed and implemented. However I believe that is far too simplistic.
The internet is more than a way to keep up with your friends or waste a few hours browsing around. The internet is the most powerful, market place for skills, goods and services that there has ever been. There is simply no sort of physical business that can’t benefit from some sort of internet presence and literally millions of businesses that simply exist online with no physical location. For Africa this is important, one of the biggest obstacles faced by the African entrepreneur is the lack of seed or investment funding to start a business. African banks have simply not provided this service in the past although thankfully it is changing. However an internet business can be started for virtually nothing, time and effort goes a long way online and it’s a great way for an entrepreneur to start and make a worthwhile living.
It can be used to promote or develop a localised business or with a little investment in things like proxies or VPNs as illustrated here, you can reach markets globally. However if you look at some of the statistics representing internet usage in Africa you can see a worrying trend developing. Have a look at some of the stats on this site – Africa Internet Usage, you can see that internet penetration is dominated by the traditional economic successes in Africa. Countries like Egypt and South Africa have a very high proportion of internet users, also Kenya has invested heavily in an usable infrastructure. However the largest by far is that of Nigeria where at least a proportion of the massive oil revenues has been utilised to improve internet availability. These countries alone have well over 50% of the internet users in Africa, but places like the Congo or Ethiopia have a depressingly small amount of internet users.
Of course the internet is going to solve all these countries problems but falling behing in yet another economic advantage isn’’t going to help them either.
It’s not easy starting up a business in Africa, but hopefully the internet will start to make that easier. One of the biggest problems in Africa is the lack of infrastructure both physical and intellectual. For example in the developed world, becoming an entrpreneur is not that difficult. There are agencies to help you start, grants from governments and usually plenty of sources of start up capital in the form of business or development loans. Of course the global financial crisis has affected this in most countries, but it’s still way simpler to get start up capital from a European bank than an African one.
However individuals are starting to see the huge potential in Africa where the Internet penetration is around 12%. This figure although low by developed standards still works out at roughly 120 million Africans who have access to the internet. However this is growing and fast, even now fiber optic cables are being laid across the continent, which will soon make fast broadband access available to all sorts of people including low income groups.
Of course with people come markets, when you’re talking about a potential market of hundreds of millions of users then the growth is going to be huge. The possibilities for mirroring sites that have been successful in Europe, Asia and North America is obvious. Starting an online business based in Africa is looking to be a seriously good move, Amazon Africa for example!
Of course there are still problems, until the broadband infrastructure is complete then some African entrepreneurs will have problems online. But there’s no doubt that Africa is going to benefit hugely from the internet revolution and hopefully many millions of Africans will be given the chance to earn their living online.
There are still tools needed of course in order to succeed online in somewhere like Africa. Access to blocked sites either by corporations or government is essential but these are easily access using proxies and VPNs like these – http://thenewproxies.com/. But we are already starting to see some successful online companies there like Dealfish and Dealdey in Nigeria which are African based classified and sales sites.
When food is often scarce or at least in short supply for one reason or another, it makes good sense to maximize what you have available. While the problems of obesity that plague the western countries are not really an issue on the African continent as a whole, its polar opposite, malnutrition and being underweight are much more prevalent.
It has been said that in the west people are dying from overeating, while in Africa, they die from starvation. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that while one part of the world can afford to be so overindulgent in the way it over-consumes the abundance of food that is available while a whole continent is deprived of that luxury.
Yet in many parts of Africa, there is an abundance of food that is often kept by a small minority and not shared with the people that need it most. It is this duplicity that is both baffling and sad yet little seems to ever be done to redress the balance.
Foreign aid pours into the African nations and that aid is meant to help its people. But often that monetary lifeline is never seen by the majority of the people that need it. Unscrupulous governments and corrupt politicians deflect the lion’s share of that aid into their own projects that often have little to do with helping the people they govern.
So what can the people do to help maintain a decent level of nutrition for themselves and their families in the face of so much difficulty?
Foreign run projects to help people to learn to farm their lands and grow their own food would seem to be the most logical solution and in some areas this is working well. In those places where these projects are allowed to flourish, whole villages are reaping the benefits of their ability to feed themselves. It also provides the people with a sense of self reliance and control over their own needs.
While there is little immediate need for the kind of dietary information to help people avoid weight gain in most areas of Africa, there is a need for nutritional information to help people to understand what they need to eat to at least be as healthy as is possible under the circumstances that prevail. Such information can be found on website such as www.dietwith.com that tackle not only the problems of the overweight and obese, but also the undernourished and underweight. We may not live in a perfect world, but we can try to do as much as we can to educate and assist where it is needed and desired.
One of the biggest problems facing many of the African nations aside from worrying about communications and financial affairs is in feeding their people adequately. While some of the richer states are not so troubled by lack of food for their people, the majority of the poorer countries have serious problems with providing enough food to ensure their population is adequately fed.
The underlying problems that cause these issues are many and varied. There are several problematical governments and political leaders that are more concerned about holding onto power and their political livelihoods than the very people who they are supposed to be governing. Other countries are struggling under the weight of internal fighting and guerrilla warfare that threatens to destroy the very fabric of their tenuous grip on civilization.
Some countries, with Western aid have undertaken agricultural projects designed to make the best use of arable land to produce crops that will help to ensure their people are fed. Unfortunately, these projects are too few or have been undermined by the ulterior motives of corrupt politicians and governments.
This creates a difficult situation where many in the West are trying to help but are frustrated by politics getting in the way of sensibility. Foreign aid pouring into the African continent runs into the billions of dollars annually, yet only a scant portion of that money reaches the people that really need and can use it wisely.
Yet where areas at peace and under the rule of just leaders exist, these projects can thrive. Such is the ability of farms to overproduce a variety of useful crops that some countries have become net exporters of produce.
It is such a shame that more of these projects cannot flourish in a continent that has the capability and natural resources to promote them. People there could enjoy the benefits of being able to eat the kinds of healthy diets as can be found here: http://healthylifediets.com. Then they would not have to endure famine and poverty if only their self serving leaders would sit up and take notice.
Peace Not War
There is more profit to be had from peaceful pursuits than from warfare. Anyone with any common sense and basic rudimentary knowledge of economics knows that. When you remove the machines of war and replace them with machines of production, profits can be made that greatly exceed the cost of warfare.
A day will come when African leaders will lay down their guns and realize that stabbing each other in the back to grab and hold onto power is not the way. Common sense and the profits of an abundant civilization will eventually come into existence to replace the constant fighting and misery that is the current trend.
Every continent has its own unique flavor that makes it special. And of course this character is composed of many different cultures. Thus, it is difficult to talk of Asian culture that contains such different countries as China, India, Japan and Thailand. Similarly, northern Africa with its desert and Arabian culture is very different to sub-Saharan Africa with its jungles, animals and blend of tribes and religions. Nevertheless, there are some pertinent generalizations that can be drawn about the two continents for the sake of comparison.
Firstly, there are the sterotypes. The Western world views Asia as the economic power house of the world. Japan and now China and Korea are leading the way in manufacturing industries. Asia is renowned for making cars and other high-tech goods such as computers cheaper, faster and better than the West. Today, China leads the world in terms of new patent creation. India for several years has been the brains behind many software and IT breakthroughs. Silicon Valley is full of people of Indian descent.
In contrast, Africa is seen as a backwater by the West; as a continent of basket-case economies that have been slow to enter the world stage provided by globalization. Corruption, civil war, natural disasters, draught, famine and even genocide are remembered only too well as part of Africa’s past, and perhaps part of Africa’s fate. African countries with the possible exception of South Africa have a very small manufacturing base compared to Asia.
It is not just manufacturing. From visiting the two continents it is very noticeable that small businesses abound in Asia – street stalls, noodle stands, markets, repair men on the side of the road, itinerant barbers – you name it and you can find it on the streets of many of the mega cities of Asia. In contrast, in African cities there often seems a dearth of small businesses. It leads many to think that Africans have less entrepreneurial sense than Asians. Indeed many Chinese and Indian shopkeepers have set up successfully all over Africa.
It is time that we Africans address these real and imagined deficiencies in our cultures. Bringing better information technology to Africa and showing that we can be just as innovative as the Indians and just as industrious as the Chinese is part of the task that lies ahead for Africa.
It is a common mistake to make to think that developing countries will go through a similar evolution to that experienced by the now developed countries. This is naive thinking. The industrial revolution started in England in the late Eighteenth Century. It was focused around steam power, coal and the ability to trade with a huge Empire at very profitable rates.
Now all countries have access to the combustion engine, to fossil fuel generated electricity. Several, to the chagrin of the West, have even managed to make foryas into nuclear power. Moreover, the West is no longer the factory of the world. This dubious accolade belongs to Asia, and primarily to China.
Manufactuiring is at the heart of a strong economy but this must be balanced by the need to better husband natural resources, prevent environmental deterioration and to plan for a future where water, oil, coal, metal ores, minerals, wood and food will be the most precious commodities.
This is the great irony for Africa is rich in natural resources, and yet remains very poor in terms of GDP. Africa’s natural resources are being exchanged for expensive manufactured and designed products from abroad – cars, planes, weapons, infrastructure projects and the like.
The solution is for Africa to redress this post-colonial imbalance. It must manufacture its own cars, set up its own IT services, form its own companies to make precision tooling equipment, to make electrical goods, to create aerospace parts etc. Naturally, outside know-how is necessary but the interference from outside corporate elements must be reduced as much as possible over a planned time table. This is about economic sustainability. Africa has the resources, it just needs to better use these resources. Africa used to be the richest continent in the world. It can be a real challenger for that mantle again with the correct macro management.