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Africa behind on ICT employment, mobile connectivity

Africa behind on ICT employment, mobile connectivity

While an increase in mobile and internet penetration in certain African countries is boosting trade in telecommunications and e-commerce, mobile connectivity is not robust enough and employment in specialist ICT areas remains subdued.

These are key findings from a new report Information Economy 2017, released by the United Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) this week.

The Report identifies Senegal and Tanzania as the African countries with the most notable economies where "telecommunications accounted for 85% of ICT services exports".

ICT platforms and services are boosting Africa's economies as e-commerce emerges.

However, according to UNCTAD, there are only about 479 000 people employed in Nigeria's ICT sector, despite the west African country being one of the economies with rising ICT and telecom sectors.

These employees account for about 1% of Nigeria's total employed populace. The UNCTAD report cites Sierra Leone as one of the African countries where there has been strong growth in mobile connectivity.

However, "the Central African Republic, Eritrea and South Sudan, have not increased as much" in terms of robust growth in mobile cellular services.

"Mobile cellular services in (this) group reach less than a third of the population, and the telecommunications markets are yet to be liberalised," said the report.

However, for countries such as Rwanda and Zambia, a rise in mobile subscriptions has boosted imports and trade in communications equipment.

The UNCTAD report did not provide specific details regarding the value of imported communications equipment in the two countries.

"Rwanda and Zambia, the rise in mobile subscriptions occurred simultaneously as the rise in imports of communications equipment," it said.

In Rwanda, mobile subscriber numbers reached 8.5 million in August this year after rising by 1% from the July numbers according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority.

MTN controls about 42% of the mobile market share in Rwanda; Tigo has about 39% while Airtel Rwanda has about 19%.

Zambia's Communications Minister, Brian Mushimba said in May that the country had about 12 active mobile phone subscribers as at the end of 2016, while the country is reportedly keen to add a new mobile operator.

The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has also confirmed that there are about 5.2 million mobile internet subscribers in the southern African country.

African countries have also lagged other global peers in terms of posting cloud computing jobs online, with the cloud still emerging as an important aspect of ICT services.

"In Africa, most countries have not yet posted a single one (cloud vacancy). Even relative tech hubs, such as Egypt and South Africa, accounted for only 0.5 percent each of the announced vacancies," said UNCTAD researchers.

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