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Africa needs more ‘tech unicorns’

Stakeholders insist broadband development should be the focus of the continent’s economic and social discourse.

If the limits to internet access – including price points – were eliminated, Africa would create more “tech unicorns”.

This is according to group deputy executive chair of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Nic Rudnick, who delivered the keynote address at the AfricaCom 2022 conference in Cape Town on Wednesday, on Africa’s 4th Industrial Revolution.

He says the development of widely accessible broadband will move Africans from being consumers of mobile devices, content and services from elsewhere, to being enabled to be creatives who develop and consume locally-designed applications.

“If you look at Africa as a whole and ask how many unicorns Africa has created over the last few years – and I mean genuine tech unicorns where someone has created software, a capability or a company worth a billion dollars or more – it’s hard to think of even one.”

“Yet other countries across the world produce dozens of unicorns on an annual basis.”

Rudnick reiterated that the continent needs to provide uncapped and affordable data for it to move from simply consuming to being creative, and subsequently enabling “tech unicorns”.

Collaboration, networks needed

His perspective was echoed during the fourth Broadband African Forum whose participants, including representatives from the African Union (AU) and African Telecom Union (ATU), noted during the discussion that Africa needs to collaborate in bringing full-optic, fixed-, and wireless broadband synergy to the continent.

The participants further added that the need to facilitate the introduction of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) and active broadband industry policies should be realised.

“Africa is on the cusp of a broadband explosion, but every effort must be made to ensure that it benefits as broad a swathe of the population as possible, especially over the long term.”

Director of the AU’s Management Information System, Anderson Amlamba, noted that: “One of the most obvious challenges in rolling out FMC is network availability.”

“The networks simply aren’t there,” he added.

According to The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa 2021 report by GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association), only 28% of the population in the region had mobile internet connectivity in 2020. This is in comparison to 49% of people globally, the report notes.

In addition, it found that 19% of the Sub-Saharan population lived in areas that were not connected to mobile networks, while an additional 53% did not use mobile internet, despite having coverage.

President of network marketing and solution sales at Huawei, Gary Lu, says it’s general consensus that ultra-broadband infrastructure is key to digital economic development and that fibre-based broadband must be deployed as soon as possible.

“The ATU has been continuously committed to rolling out broadband across the continent, not least because broadband is critical for economic development and social stability. Africa still lies far below the global average when it comes to broadband connectivity.”

He says limited broadband inevitably leads to limited economic development and global trade.

“We must place broadband development at the core of our discourse.”

Source: Money Web

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