The numbers for Africa are full of potential; the continent has a population of 1,073,380,925 people as of 2012, which accounts for 15.3 percent of the world’s population. Internet users make up only 167,335,676 people – a penetration rate of 15.6 percent of the population.
So even if this number reaches its potential, there’s a likely customer base of at least 500 million people. In order to move the continent forward and maximize technological advancements, broadband has to be the preferred method of delivering internet content.
Broadband service providers might be somewhat hesitant to get in the African market, but the market does exist. While the mobile market is not the same as broadband, companies that were early adopters when everyone was avoiding it now control more than 650 million customers in the continent.
This number is only second to Asia by connection, and the fastest growing market in the world.
The middle class is growing in the entire continent and not just select countries. This middle class will want the services and conveniences other middle class citizens around the world enjoy. Broadband speeds for their internet access is one of these conveniences. In major capital cities where the service is available, the need exceeds the capacity to deliver declared speeds because the available bandwidth cannot handle the traffic.
2012 and beyond will see a dramatic and rapid increase in broadband availability for the continent as a whole. Fiber, wireless and satellite broadband technologies are competing to get in the market and get a foothold in the early stages of high-speed Internet access in Africa.
ICT expenditure in Africa is at 7 percent of the continents GDP, making it higher than the global average, exceeding $150 billon.
According to a survey by Earnest & Young, Africa has grown at a compound rate of almost 20 percent since 2007, and has received the largest share of foreign direct investment in 2011. Technology makes a large portion of these investments, and if the right infrastructure and policies are put in place, it’s estimated it could translate in to 15 million jobs from 2015 – 2020.
The adoption of these policies and broadband technology is critical considering the continent will have one in five of the planets young people by 2040.
Africa is seeing number of investments in broadband infrastructure. Underwater cable, wireless broadband, fiber and satellite technologies are going head to head. The biggest problem seems to be more than 70 percent of the internet traffic is routed outside of the continent; making the cost prohibitive to a large number of the people in the continent.
While some of these infrastructure projects will prove to be effective in the future, broadband wireless has the most potential.
The wireless infrastructure that is already in place, accessibility to a wider demographic and the cost of the mobile devices used to access the internet makes it the best choice at the moment. Currently there are smartphones selling for $80 and some companies are also offering units for as little as $40.
The introduction of these low price devices will encourage broadband companies to start offering services.
While there is great potential in Africa, the greatest obstacles it faces are the policies it puts in place. Broadband technology has great potential by driving employment across all sectors, allowing worldwide access, improvements to education, and economic development. Countries in Africa should encourage investors so they can provide the services the people in the continent need without bottleneck bureaucracies that stifle growth.
This has been one of the biggest hurdles countries in the content have faced in the past, but the only way they will be able to move forward is by catching up to the rest of the world in broadband technology.
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