WASHINGTON, December 10, 2012 — Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations are delivering home-grown solutions in Africa, transforming businesses, and driving entrepreneurship and economic growth, says a joint report published by the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), with support from the African Union.
Co-edited by Camford Associates’ Colin Blackman, eTransform Africa: The Transformational Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Africa, provides new data on the technological revolution that is taking place in Africa and its transformational impact on the continent’s development. At the start of 2012, there were some 650 million mobile subscriptions, making the African mobile telephony market bigger than either the EU or the United States. Some 68,000 km of submarine cable and over 615,000 km of national backbone networks have been laid, greatly increasing connectivity across Africa. The Internet bandwidth available to Africa’s one billion citizens has grown 20-fold since 2008.
“The Internet and mobile phones are transforming the development landscape in Africa, injecting new dynamism in key sectors,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region. “The challenge is to scale up these innovations and success stories for greater social and economic impacts across Africa over the next decade.”
The eTransform Africa report emphasizes the need to build a competitive ICT industry to promote innovation, job creation, and boost the export potential of African companies. It identifies best practices in the use of ICT in eight key sectors. For example:
- Agriculture: In Kenya, the Kilimo Salama scheme is providing crop insurance for farmers, using the M-PESA payment gateway, helping them to better manage natural hazards such as drought or excessive rainfall.
- Climate change adaptation: In Malawi, a deforestation project is training local communities to map their villages using GPS devices and empowering them to develop localized adaptation strategies by engaging communities.
- Financial services: In Senegal, SONATEL (a subsidiary of Orange) is one of the latest operators on the continent to launch a money transfer service that is enabling 200,000 subscribers to send and receive money using mobile phones.
- Health: In Mali, telemedicine is helping overcome the lack of trained healthcare workers and specialists in rural areas, specifically the IKON Tele-radiology program.
“This report not only sheds light on the path Africa is already on, but also encourages continued creative thinking in how to utilize ICTs to benefit more Africans,” said Gilbert Mbesherubusa, Acting Vice-President Operations, African Development Bank.
The report shows how countries such as Kenya and Senegal are implementing ICT-enabled trade facilitation initiatives, and outlines the key role that Africa’s Regional Economic Communities can play in supporting greater regional integration for boosting economic growth and reducing costs.
eTransform Africa also documents the flowering of technology hubs across Africa – such as iHub and NaiLab in Kenya, Hive CoLab and AppLab in Uganda, Activspaces in Cameroon, BantaLabs in Senegal, Kinu in Tanzania or infoDev’s mLabs in Kenya and South Africa. These hubs are creating new spaces for collaboration, innovation, training, applications and content development, and for pre-incubation of African firms.
““Africa is rapidly becoming an ICT leader. Innovations that began in Africa – like dual SIM card mobile phones, or using mobile phones for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond,” said Tim Kelly, Lead ICT Policy Specialist at the World Bank and an author of the report. “The challenge going forward is to ensure that ICT innovations benefit all Africans, including the poor and vulnerable, and those living in remote areas.”
According to eTransform Africa, the experiences so far offer many useful lessons for African policy makers seeking to maximize the transformational impact of ICTs. For example:
- Deployment of ICTs and the development of applications must be rooted in the realities of local circumstance and diversity.
- Governments have an important part to play in creating the enabling environment in which innovations and investments can flourish while serving as a lead client in adopting new innovations and technologies.
- Effective use of ICTs will require cross-sectoral collaboration and a multi-stakeholder approach, based on open data and open innovation.
- Most innovative ICT applications in Africa have been the result of pilot programs. The report says now is the time for rigorous evaluation, replication and scaling-up of best practices.
eTransform Africa includes more than 20 case studies of ICT transformation in action in Africa, as well as a statistical annex presenting the latest data on mobile and broadband access in African countries. The study received funding from the AfDB Korean Trust Fund and the World Bank Pfizer Trust Fund. The full report, together with eight sectoral studies, is available online at www.eTransformAfrica.org.