Africa is viewed as one of the most desirable emerging markets in the world. Business opportunities are rife in many African countries, and this is recognised by local and global industries and the players within them. Due to this, Africa’s telecommunications industry is a topic that often makes the news because developments and advances within the industry are crucial to the commercial successes of the continent.
South African, African and global ICT companies all strive to offer reliable and effective offerings on the continent to support the African expansion strategies of these organisations. Internet Solutions, a leading South African ICT provider, used their 20th birthday celebration to highlight their successes and communicate their future strategy. According to Saki Missaikos, Managing Director, IS will be focused on, “…enabling not just South Africa, but the rest of the continent to move affordably to the future of the Internet: cloud computing, mobility, and eventually, the everywhere network.”
Fibre development in Africa is however inconsistent. Connectivity in East African countries is way ahead of that in Central African countries where implementation strategies are unclear. On a positive note, the Central African Backbone project, run by The World Bank, in Gabon and DRC is talking about connecting the fibre networks in these countries to increase the quality and reliability of services and reduce costs. The Capacity Africa Conference held in Tanzania in September, focused on the challenges being faced by African networks, including bandwidth, pricing and regulatory environments.
There is much diversity within African environments making consistent or standardised ICT services across the continent virtually impossible. It is important to note that technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN) are assisting to address this issue by separating decision-making systems from the network traffic systems. This means that infrastructure costs in African countries are significantly lowered, as routers are not necessary at every decision-making point. Both hardware and software can be standardised. The implementation of such technology can significantly improve the African telecommunications landscape.
Rwanda has recently started offering free Wi-Fi in Kigali, its capital. This is part of the government’s plan to accelerate the city’s connectivity. The Minister of Information Technology, Jean Philibert Nsengimana, said that “Connectivity is one of the most important draws for business in this age of digital economy.”
Initiatives are constantly underway to increase Africa’s connectivity. These stem from governments themselves, ICT providers in South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world, and demand from global businesses wishing to increase their African footprint. It would seem that connectivity in Africa is set to continue to improve, thereby adding weight to the continent’s wealth of opportunities.