STF Mag Feature: Digitising Africa
A Continent Rish in Online Business Potential
By Chris Wood
January 21, 2022
The ongoing digitisation of Africa presents a significant opportunity for all organisations involved with the transportation and utilisation of digital data – from submarine cable owners, fixed-line/mobile telcos, content providers, application developers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), through to systems integrators, multinational corporations, enterprises and small businesses.
Africa is the second most populous continent in the world and has the fastest growing population, at 2.49% per annum. Indeed, UNICEF predicts that by 2050 a quarter of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s youth (those aged under 18), will be African.
Whilst currently only 43.2% of Africa’s estimated 1.37 billion population use the internet (compared to 65.6% for the world as a whole), the number of users has grown by an eye-watering 13,058% since 2000.
Also, taking into account the greater propensity for internet usage among teenagers and younger adults, the use of internet-based services, applications and equipment is clearly set to continue to rise steeply – with more than 40% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population under the age of 15.
Internet-based products and services
Driven by improved access to reliable, lower-cost, high-speed bandwidth and cheaper, high-specification handsets, the use of internet-based social networking applications, music and video streaming, online gaming, etc. is on a steep upward curve.
Africa is seeing significant growth in global streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as in offerings from national/regional streaming companies like Showmax. This growth has been driven by a variety of factors, including improved accessibility, more African content and improved end-user experience resulting from the increasing migration of content to Africa.
Netflix is predicted to more than double its streaming subscribers in Africa to 5.84 million by 2026 – from an estimated 2.61 million at the end of 2021. The same research also forecast that in the next five years the total number of subscription video-on-demand users in Africa would triple to 15.06 million, from the 5.11 million expected at the end of 2021.
Facebook provides a good insight into what is happening in the social networking sector, with 13.1 million subscribers added in Africa between December 2020 and June 2021, taking its total to 268.5 millionsubscribers.
There is also a wave of new high-speed, low latency, connectivity-dependent technology and services emerging onto the market which is further accelerating demand for high-quality, low latency bandwidth.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase that was largely unheard of a few years ago, but it is rapidly becoming a part of everyday conversation as more and more physical objects, such as multi-media entertainment centres, security cameras and heating/cooling systems, are embedded with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies, communicating over the Internet or other communications networks.
There are now a myriad of drone applications – from mobility and transportation to security, exploration and photography – enabled by the more widespread accessibility of affordable, low latency connectivity.
Many other capabilities have also been made possible by improved connectivity, including e-health services and automated factory management.
These developments continue to enrich the lives of people throughout Africa, whilst underpinning ongoing increases in internet uptake and bandwidth utilisation across the continent.