Who or what will lead Africa's digital revolution asks GSMA

By 2022 the mobile economy will generate more than 150 billion or almost 8% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is according to organisers of the 2018 GSMA Mobile 360 Series Africa Conference being held in Rwanda this week.

ITWeb Africa reports from Kigali that delegates were asked whether the continent's digital revolution will be led by people or technology.

Akinlawe Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA, said, "...the mobile money leadership forum and the women for tech are just some of the sessions that will address the theme of the conference. We have seen significant growth in Africa in the last year. The (number of) subscribers in the region now sits at 440 million people which is equivalent to about nine percent of the global subscriber base for mobile telephony. We expect that this will grow at a compounded annual rate of 4.8 percent for the period 2017 to 2022 which is more than double the global growth rate over the same period. The penetration rate is forecast to reach the 50 percent level by the year 2023 and 52 percent by 2025."

Goodluck added that discussion will focus on the emergence of 3G as the most dominant network technology in Africa as it now accounts for 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa's connections, and this is predicted to be the case until 2025.

"We predict also that by 2025, mobile broadband connections will stand at 87 percent of all connections in the region. In 2017 mobile technologies and services generated in excess of 7 percent to GDP across Sub-Saharan Africa - a contribution that amounted to about 110 billion US dollars of economic value. By 2022 the mobile economy will generate more than 150 billion or almost eight percent of GDP as countries continue to benefit from greater mobile internet enhanced by technologies and creating efficiencies. By 2025 we believe that near 300 million more people will come online with the majority of them connecting through high speed mobile networks."

According to Goodluck, delegates will have to evaluate policies by African governments as a result of the contribution by mobile technologies to economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa with mobile money transactions, for example, growing by 15% in 2017 to reach US$19.2 billion.

Rise of mobile tech

"To extend connectivity to underserved areas and to ensure long term industry sustainability requires the establishment and focusing of regulatory frameworks and investment-friendly policies to facilitate clearer capex programmes. Two key points here to support the growth of the mobile ecosystem are the implementation of an appropriate spectrum management framework and tax reform to improve the availability of mobile technology to consumers in low income segments."

Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Rwanda's Minister of Information Technology and Communications assured delegates that the country's government is doing all it can to support the rise of mobile technology.

"Rwanda in particular, has put in place a conducive environment for business in the telecoms industry with the right regulations, policies and infrastructure. Through collaboration, partnerships and mutual respect, (the) telecommunications sector has indeed marked its place in the broader digital revolution. There are considerable opportunities for diversification of trade and investment in the telecom industry. As a matter of specific focus the government of Rwanda offers preferential treatment to companies when they want to invest in different areas of ICT in our economy."

The GSMA Spectrum Pricing in Developing Countries report released on the sidelines of the event indicates that spectrum prices in developing countries are, on average, more than three times higher than in developed countries, when income is taken into account.

The report also reveals that governments increase spectrum prices to maximise state revenues from licensing.