Telecoms Opportunities: Africa Infrastructure Series (Part 1)

Defining moments:

While on a trip to Africa recently, I visited my 84-year-old grandmother in the countryside. On arrival, I met her answering a call on her mobile phone while gardening. I was pleasantly surprised to see that mobile phone network has finally reached her in a rural village in West Africa.

It is on record that western investors came late to Africa telecommunication transformation because analysts and bookmakers failed to predict the mobile phone revolution when it started. For a continent with a population of over one billion and slightly over two million mobile phone subscribers a decade ago, having more than half a billion subscribers today is a remarkable economic achievement.

New approach:

The success story of telecommunication in Africa is mostly driven by large-scale private investments. According to Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), Sub Saharan Africa ICT sector has attracted over $60 billion in investment, which translates to 97 projects in 37 countries. To make return on investment quicker, telecom networks in Africa introduced pre-paid services, which resulted in astronomical growth of subscribers across the continent.

The governments of African countries also contributed enormously to the success of the telecommunication investors in their countries. The governments not only deregulated the sector, some provided market entry incentives to lure private investors that have successfully transformed the communication ability of an entire continent.

Regulating the market:

Telecom regulatory bodies across Africa are gradually evolving a stable regulatory system that guarantees sustainable growth and increased foreign direct investment. According to Secretary General of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Mr Hamadoun Toure, over 45 African countries have good regulatory authorities with stable and predictable policies.

The McKinsey Institute in their 2010 report suggested that telecom regulators and African governments could further drive the growth of the sector by making lower-spectrum bands available, encourage infrastructure sharing, provide rollout incentives and potentially reduce rural telephony license fees.

How to get involved:

Investors that arrived earlier and recent acquisitions dominate telecom markets in Africa.

Nevertheless, there are still growing opportunities for both big and small businesses in rural telephony, recharge card solutions among others. Companies that are aspiring to explore opportunities in the African telecom market should consider collaborating with a local player in their target market.There are several opportunities to meet African telecom experts in industry events in Africa or outside the continent.

The opportunities below are spread across countries in the continent.

  • SIM Card Accreditation (software and hardware providers)
  • Repair and maintenance of telecommunications facilities
  • Collocation and co-sharing of infrastructure
  • Power management systems
  • Alternative energy for cellular sites/services (solar, wind, etc.)
  • Vehicle tracking systems
  • Satellite navigation systems Infrastructure companies – (building/Towers and Masts co-location)
  • Call logging solutions
  • Recharge card solutions and other value-added services
  • ICT/telecoms solutions for telematics and healthcare
  • Consultancy and business development services
  • Sales and installation of terminal equipment
  • Provision and operation of public pay phones among others.

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Linda Nordling

Cape Town — South Africa is spearheading activities to collect and curate research data about the African continent in an effort to shrug off its data-poor image.

fibre opticA prototype of the World Data Centre on Biodiversity and Human Health in Africa was presented at The Committee on Data for Science and Technology’s (CODATA) international conference in Cape Town recently.

The data centre, due to be launched early next year, will join the ranks of more than 50 world data centres – most of which are located in the United States, Europe and East Asia – which collect data in subjects like astronomy, geomagnetism and solar activity. The centres are currently being integrated into an overarching World Data Service.

Data on biodiversity and health in Africa is currently scattered around the world. The new centre aims to collect all this data into a single, online, resource that could be useful for African policymakers.

It will help researchers identify gaps in existing data and find historical data to compare to new findings, said Wim Hugo, a data expert from the South African Environmental Observation Network and one of the centre’s architects.

Users will also be able to layer different sets of data on top of one another, he said. For example, researchers could be able to call up a map of climate change projections (e.g. rainfall, temperature) and then the data on mosquito populations to get an idea of where mosquitoes are likely to be affected by climate change.

South Africa is also taking the lead in other data-gathering efforts. Last month, the US NASA space agency sent more than 30 terabytes (30,000 gigabytes) of free Earth science satellite data to South African researchers to support sustainable development and environmental applications.    Image: africanincubatornetwork


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Issa Sikiti Da Silva

cablesThe African continent will have 13 submarine cables by the end of 2011, a process that will redefine the technology environment and set the continent on a major broadband explosion, Sadiq Malik, director of operations at Broadband Communication Technologies (BCT), told a workshop at the Africa Media and Broadcasting 2010 Congress at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Traffic on the world’s networks is being increased by 46% annually starting from 2007 until 2012. As a result, there will be an annual bandwidth demand of approximately 522 exabytes, or more than half a zettabyte,” Malik announced today, Monday, 29 November 2010.

“From currently being seen as a dark continent, Africa will become the light continent, simply because of the amount of bandwidth,” Malik, a visiting University of Cape Town Business School lecturer, said today.

Impact on economy

He said this bandwidth revolution will have a major impact on the continent’s economy because 1% increase in bandwidth has the power to increase a country’s GDP by 0.5%, as per the World Bank and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) forecasts.

The Africa Media and Broadcasting Congress is set to lasted for five days with a series of workshops and plenary sessions that discussed issues affecting the continent’s media and broadcasting industry.

Source:      Image: worldbank


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