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Africa must act or otherwise lose out on 4th industrial revolution

Africa must act or lose out on 4th industrial revolution

Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary in Kenya's Ministry of Information and Communications, has warned that if Africa is not proactive, it stands to lose out on the ICT-driven fourth industrial revolution.

Mucheru opened the final African Preparatory Meeting in Nairobi this week, organised to deliberate ahead of the 2018 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (ITU PP-18) scheduled for October 2018.

He said, "Africa today is ranked at the bottom of all economic indicators relative to other regions of the world. Our past failings at negotiations have also seen our vast natural wealth exploited, to the benefit of other regions. Africa lost out during the first industrial revolution, and consequently remains a net importer of goods manufactured using either our agricultural produce or our natural resources. If we are not proactive, we stand to lose out in the unfolding fourth industrial revolution, which is driven by ICTs."

Mucheru bemoaned the lack of availability of broadband connectivity on the continent and said less than 35% of Africa's population reside within 5km of prime traffic arteries of the internet.

But, there are still opportunities Mucheru added. "Statistics show that Africa is the world's second largest mobile market by connections after Asia and the fastest growing mobile market globally. Currently, the mobile ecosystem in Africa generates approximately US$56 billion or 3.5% of the total GDP. At the same time, infrastructure connectivity has improved with new capacity increasingly being generated, especially for broadband. Investments that now exceed US$ 3.8 billion have generated new capacity of 24 Gigabits per second. The GSMA estimates that mobile connections will rise to an average penetration of 49% in the region by 2020, (which means) the mobile industry contributes US$ 166 billion to African economies. This is an equivalent to 8% of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa."

"Although Africa still lags behind in the global digital race, these statistics clearly point to a region that is poised for digital transformation."

Abdoulkarim Soumaila, Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) said, "We shall continue our coordination role to ensure the African continent benefits from the discussions at the 2018 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference."

Francis Wangusi, Director General, CA has also expressed hope that the continent will come out of the final meeting with a common vision.

"I am positive that at the end of this fourth and last preparatory meeting, Africa will be standing united and ready to articulate its interests at the global level. The principles of growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation & collaboration have been the bedrock of ICT development in this region. I encourage us to uphold these key principles as our guide in these penultimate discussions and ultimately anchor our proposals that we shall front at the ITU PP-18."

Kenya, a member of the ITU Council since 1982, is seeking re-election to the Council during ITU PP-18. Thirteen of the 48 available seats are reserved for Africa.

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