Africa’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has seen unprecedented growth in recent years. The private sector has invested close to $50 billion in the last decade, with a focus on mobile and related applications, and more recently in international submarine cables. Mobile density in the continent jumped from 20% (in terms of the number of SIM cards sold per 100 inhabitants) in 2005 to around 65% in 2011. Recent completion of undersea cables has tripled available bandwidth. However, the rollout of ICT infrastructure, in particular access to the Internet is uneven (Internet penetration is about 11.5% in 2011) and many underserved countries and areas remain. In addition the lack of regional and national backbone infrastructure is a stumbling block towards the development of broadband Internet. The promotion of ICT in Africa still requires investing billions of dollars.
The ICT sector has proven to be a strong driver of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in nations across the world. From developing countries to developed nations – the ICT sector has played a part in the success of each of these nation’s economies, the advancement of its people’s skill-sets, capabilities and positioning the nations as a place for global firms to move efficiently conduct business.
Over the past decade – ICT has been a major economic driver to boost the social and economic landscape of the African continent. The ICT sector is better positioned to leverage businesses and the continent to some impressive growth of economies. The ICT sector witnessed double digit growth and if this trend continues upwardly – ICT expenditure in Africa could exceed $150 billion by 2016. The ICT expenditure would continue to include computer hardware and software, computer services (computer and network systems integration, data processing services) and communications services (voice and data communications services) and wired and wireless communication equipment. African countries have made positive progress on access to ICT services – however there is still work to be done in terms of ICT readiness. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Development Index – it indicated that the African region has made slower progress when compared to other regions in the past two years – with roughly half the improvement on an aggregate basis. Access to ICT still remains a huge challenge for most African countries.