Page 1


THE IMPACT OF ICTs ON AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT

A

re we seeing history repeat itself ? In the aftermath of the African independence movement of the 1960s, many communications experts from the West had claimed that the spread of technology in Third World countries would favour, even accelerate, their socioeconomic development. A leading exponent of this view was American Wilbur Schramm, who, in his influential book Mass Media and National Development, described the hopes embodied by television for the fields of education and development. In the end, television’s impact on development proved well below expectations. Be that as it may, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are today’s new television, bestowed with the power to transform a society both economically and socially. Can they succeed where other technologies have failed? Before answering this question, one must first examine Africa’s situation in terms of the penetration of these new technologies. With respect to the Internet, the African continent is considered the world’s biggest laggard, with users representing only 5.5% of its population and a penetration rate of 7%. On the other hand, mobile telephony has witnessed an explosion, with growth exceeding 500% in less than ten years and an average penetration of 37%. Result: between 1998 and

EDITORIAL BY GERBA MALAM

illnesses, to compensate for the scarcity of medical staff and to avoid needless travelling. Finally, ICTs provide a means for effecting political change by enabling users to exert pressure for the democratization of regimes. An example of this is the role played by social media networks in the recent popular revolt in Tunisia, as participant, supporter and even as causative factor. They were indispensable for boosting the morale of the revolutionaries, by showing them they were not alone and by raising Westerners’ awareness of the situation. On the other side, detractors believe the effectiveness of the new technologies is overestimated. For them, the penetration of technology is not synonymous with progress. “Technology is a magnifier in that its impact is multiplicative, not additive, with regard to social change,” says Kentaro Toyama, professor at the Berkeley School of Information, in California. After observing telecentres in Asia and Africa over a five-year period, he has come to the conclusion that their successes have been “rare, fleeting and far apart.” While ICTs no doubt provide access to modern resources that can help counter a climate of lack (short-

IT CANNOT BE SAID THAT TECHNOLOGY IS USELESS. RATHER, THE MYTH SURROUNDING ITS OMNIPOTENCE NEEDS TO BE PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE. 2009, mobile service registrations have risen from two million to more than 450 million. The news is good on the fibre optics front too: Africa’s international Internet bandwidth will grow tremendously by late 2012. Thousands of kilometres of underwater cables are being installed along its coasts. About 15 underground fibre-optic cables, providing a throughput of 32 terabits/second, surround the continent. In short, then, while the digital divide remains quite pronounced as regards personal computers and the Internet, portable telephones are doing very well indeed. Say what one will, the implementation of infrastructure continues at a brisk pace. Are all these efforts having an impact on development? On this matter, there is a wide divergence of opinion. On one side, there are those who defend the benefits of the new technologies. In their view, the rapid technological progress experienced by developing countries has contributed to raising revenues and to reducing the level of absolute poverty from 29% in 1990 to 18% in 2004. The World Bank claims, for instance, that 10% growth in mobile penetration results in 1.2% growth for a sub-Saharan country. Other experts estimate that between 2000 and 2012, the telephony sector will generate nearly $71 billion US for the same region. In the field of education, distance teaching has helped bridge the need for teachers, and the African Virtual University, founded in 1997, has trained close to 9,000 scientists, engineers and technicians. Meanwhile, in the health sector, teleradiology and telediagnosis have made it possible to identify those patients requiring monitoring of certain

comings of the higher education system, of medical coverage, and so on), the environment remains fundamentally undeveloped. Thus, while the African Virtual University enables African students to access quality higher education, it does not for all that solve the problem of the deterioration of African universities with respect to infrastructure and their quality of teaching. Similarly, while telemedicine may enable patients to access the medical services they require, it does not resolve the issues of hospital deterioration and quality of care. In brief, to think that the dissemination of suitable technologies on a large scale can in and of itself remedy poverty and other social ills is nothing short of techno-utopian. For if such an outcome truly were within the power of technology to achieve, how does one explain that the number of poor people continues to rise in Africa? Does this debate need to be settled one way or the other? Truth be told, according to the side one takes, there will be a tendency to emphasize either the successes or the failures of these technologies. Yet in all cases, it cannot be said that technology is useless. Rather, the myth surrounding its omnipotence needs to be put into perspective. Technology is not a panacea, but merely one piece of a larger puzzle. And so, Kentaro Toyama is right to point out that economically developed countries established themselves as economic powers way before the arrival of digital technology. Their advanced production techniques and consumption of information technologies should therefore be interpreted as a result of economic progress rather than as a primary cause of it.

2011 SPECIAL ISSUE AFRIQUE EXPANSION Magazine

3


9

DIGITAL AFRICA

At a time when the number of development projects is constantly growing on the continent, Africa must regain sovereignty over its frequency spectrums.

18

With more than 350 million subscribers in a population just over a billion, the cell phone’s progress on the African continent is downright dizzying.

A CONNECTED

AFRICA 4

2011 SPECIAL ISSUE AFRIQUE EXPANSION Magazine

AFRICA GOES WILD FOR THE

MOBILE

PHONE

29

Despite the digital divide, just about everyone is finding a way to connect to the Web for information and communication.


EDITORIAL BY GERBA MALAM TELECOMMUNICATIONS

10

INFRASTRUCTURE

AFRICA LOOKS TO SATELLITES 12

DIGITAL AFRICA

THE BATTLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY OVER ITS FREQUENCY SPECTRUM 14

AFRICA

THE NEW

ELDORADO

OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS

AFRICA

THE NEW ELDORADO OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS 16

CONTENTS

3

INFRASTRUCTURE

THE SWITCH TO DIGITAL IS SLUGGISH

The continent has embraced the new information technologies and now represents an important market for international operators.

11

MOBILE

TELEPHONY 18

AFRICA GOES WILD FOR THE MOBILE PHONE

20

CONSUMPTION

PROVIDERS

THE FIXED PHONE CAPITULATES TO MOBILE TECHNOLOGY 22

MOBILE PROVIDERS

COMPETITION IS FIERCE 24

DIASPORA

AFRICA, MORE THAN EVER JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY CYBERNETICS 30 32

DIGITAL DIVIDE

AFRICA AND THE « GLOBAL VILLAGE » KILOMETRES APART FIBRE OPTICS

COMPETITION IS FIERCE

22

While the digital divide is slow to be bridged, the bulk of digital technology is in place on a continent in step with the times.

ON THE DIGITAL FRONT LINES 34

INTERNET CAFÉS

THE NEW ADDICTION 36

MULTIMEDIA

AFRICA’S SHIFT TOWARD CONVERGENCE 38

GOVERNMENT

THE DEMATERIALIZATION OF PUBLIC SERVICES 40

INTERNET CAFÉS ADDICTION THE NEW

AUDIOVISUAL

AFRICAN RADIO AND TELEVISION ON THE ROAD TO DIGITAL 42

AFRICA’S INTERNET PRESS TAKING BABY STEPS

42

Africans have taken a shine to these new communication centres, although sometimes for dubious reasons.

2011 SPECIAL ISSUE AFRIQUE EXPANSION Magazine

5


DIGIT


TAL AFRICA Lagging behind developmentally on several fronts, the African continent seems to be catching up as far as new technologies go. Although metrics and trends tend to minimize the extent of development, much groundwork is being done and is meeting with some degree of success thanks to the fertile business climate. The communications sector, particularly mobile telephony, is experiencing a heretofore unseen clamour for its products, from farmers in the most backward rural regions to the trendiest urban sophisticates, and infrastructure is rapidly coming together to meet the numerous local needs.

According to experts, this comes as no surprise, as the accelerated spread of networks in the least advanced countries has been a strategic priority for lenders since the G7 summit in Brussels in 1995 and the G8 summit in Okinawa in 2000. The World Bank, the IMF and other major international organizations, with the support of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), aim to liberalize the sector through the development of a universal telecommunications service, thereby reinvigorating struggling economies. This multifaceted information society is the subject of this special issue.

2011 SPECIAL ISSUE AFRIQUE EXPANSION Magazine

9


A CONNECTED

AFRICA Long subject to the whims of traditional communications operators, the African continent has seen the use of new information and communication technologies skyrocket. Although a gap remains between the various social strata when it comes to access to computers or computer terminals, everyone or close to it is henceforth able to connect to the Web, whether to get informed or to stay in touch. Today, private operators and governments are bound by performance agreements that make it mandatory for them to equip and modernize themselves for high-speed data transfer. A boon to users, who feel less and less cut off from the world and who are increasingly broadening their horizons thanks to the magic of a plasma screen. A recently published report on mobile Web use shows that the number of users in Africa has leapt 124% since 2010, a trend in step with the rest of the world. This situation is a far cry from the anachronistic stereotypes, often the focus of media attention, that have long held Africa to be a land outside modernity.


2011 SPECIAL ISSUE AFRIQUE EXPANSION Magazine 29


AFRIQUEEXPANSION.COM From September 5 to 8, 2011, complete information of the event will be available online, including exclusive articles and photographs of the organizers and participants.

AFRIQUEEXPANSION.COM provides in-depth, reliable economic information on the constantly evolving continent that is AFRICA. Also available on the Web, the electronic version of

AFRIQUE EXPANSION

1255, University, suite 401 Montreal (Quebec) Canada H3B 3B6 Tel.: (514) 393-8059, Fax : (514) 393-9024 E-mail : info@afriqueexpansion.com www.afriqueexpansion.com Executive Director : Gerba Malam Editor-in-Chief : Léopold Nséké General Manager : Amina Gerba Editorial Staff Gerba Malam Didier Oti Léopold Nséké Florent Bonnard Claude Gervais Vitraulle Mboungou Correspondents France : Isaac Ebwélé United States : Aziza Albou Traoré Jean-Marie Watonsi Cameroon : Marc Omboui Badjang ba Nken Parfait N. Siki Congo : Thierry Sylvane Noungou Gabon : Antoine Lawson Alexis Koumba Ivory Coast : Jean Samuel Kondo South Africa : Amadou Touré English translation: Nazzareno Bulette AFRIQUE EXPANSION MAGAZINE is edited by

MAGAZINE, enriched with exclusive, practical and informative reports on

GERAM COMMUNICATIONS INC

business in Africa.

President and Executive Director Gerba Malam Vice-President Amina Gerba Director, Sales and Marketing Fernando Abad Subscriptions / Customer Service Mina Marie Bensouni Graphics and Illustrations Gladiola Castro Printing Beloin Graphique

Every day,

Web administrator Khadim Ndiaye

AFRIQUEEXPANSION.COM

Photos : Shutterstock, iStockphoto et DR

gives you a head start, with tips on doing business

* AFRIQUE EXPANSION MAGAZINE Copyright deposit : Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, 2011 National Library of Canada, 2011 ISSN 1488-0504 Canada Post Agreement no. 40033111

AFRICA and in NORTH AMERICA. in

AFRIQUE EXPANSION MAGAZINE is listed in CANADIAN ADVERTISING RATES AND DATA

CARD All Reproduction Rights Reserved in all countries. Reproduction of any article or portion thereof is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of the editorial management. 45

Afrique Expansion Magazine Special issue 2011  

Afrique Expansion Magazine Special issue 2011