There is a mounting level of excitement spreading across Africa following President Obama’s recent visit to the continent. His historic trip to Ethiopia and Kenya made the headlines, but it was his remarks on seizing the opportunities available to African nations to drive economic growth that will leave a lasting impact on countries, organisations and the people of Africa.
Home to four of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies and 1.1 billion people, just 16 percent of the population have internet access, according to the World Bank. In spite of this, the internet is forecast to bolster African GDP by as much as $300 billion over the next 10 years, as more businesses harness the internet’s potential. During his visit, Obama cited the opportunity the internet offers Africans to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity. Encouraging Africa to ultimately advance ways of working that have become commonplace in Europe and North America.
But how can governments and organisations realise this potential? Obama believes that Africa needs partners, not patrons, to drive economic growth to further cement itself as a nation on the move.
Avanti Communications is one such partner. In Africa, Avanti has partnered with governments and businesses to provide universal access to the internet via satellite. With three satellites in orbit today and two more to launch soon dedicated for Africa, Avanti is able to provide high-speed internet services to 27 percent of the world’s population.
By ‘leapfrogging’ fixed-line broadband, which is prohibitively expensive to rollout and unlikely to reach more than half of Africa’s population in the next 10 years according to the World Bank, Avanti is empowering Africans so that they don’t have to wait for tomorrow to seize new opportunities.
These partnerships are already positively impacting individuals, businesses and countries at large. Connectivity, powered by our fleet of high throughput satellites, is improving education, supporting the growth of SMEs and large enterprises, and connecting rural hospitals and health professionals:
· Boosting SMEs across South Africa
South Africa’s business chamber, Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services (FABCOS), has partnered with Avanti to provide high-speed broadband to more than 1,000 small and medium sized enterprises in some of the most remote parts of South Africa. Through this partnership, a number of key sectors including retail, finance and agriculture will benefit from vital connectivity and training to power growth. This is a perfect example that demonstrates no-one in South Africa need wait for tomorrow to get connected.
· Enabling e-learning in Tanzania
250 schools in rural and underserved areas of Tanzania are being delivered access to ICT infrastructure through Avanti’s iKnowledge programme. Together with the UK Space Agency, Avanti is delivering access to high speed broadband via satellite, alongside provision of ICT training and educational content for teachers to apply straight to the classroom and children. Powered by Ka-band satellite technology, delivery is supported on the ground by education NGO Camara Education Tanzania and service provider Infinity Africa Network Ltd.
· Connecting South Africa’s public sector
SENTECH’s public sector customers across South Africa are benefitting from 100 percent high-speed satellite broadband coverage through the Company’s partnership with Avanti. Hundreds of public state institutions and government sites across some of the most remote parts of the country are reaping the benefits of connectivity, today.
· Delivering universal broadband in Zimbabwe
Avanti is working with TelOne, the Zimbabwean national telco, to provide 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage via satellite, helping to meet demand from TelOne’s consumer, enterprise and public sector customer base. The contract delivers to verticals such as mining; to public sector programmes such as national parks, schools, clinics and hospitals, and directly to consumers and businesses of all sizes. As an example of scale, the provider has signed more than 300 schools for high-speed broadband connectivity to date.
On the brink of change
While progress has been made, these examples exist in pockets rather than nationwide. Avanti believes that if you fail to involve everyone in national broadband projects, then you are not developing the nation, you are dividing the nation. Thus, increasing the gulf between zones of high connectivity, typically major cities and the rest of the country, and further disadvantaging those excluded.
In order to achieve universal connectivity, African nations should take heed of Obama’s advice around leapfrogging the technologies used by those countries with less of a digital divide. Investment in fixed and mobile internet networks is not an economically viable solution for providing 100 per cent coverage. Africa’s enormous land mass, widely distributed and fast-growing population and complex makeup of 54 sovereign states and 10 non-sovereign territories throws up a unique set of challenges. Deploying the necessary infrastructure for universal connectivity is both prohibitively expensive and simply too slow to deliver.
Both affordable and available in even the most remote locations, satellite internet access is much faster and easier to deploy as there’s no need to lay fibre cables. What’s more, common issues such as cable theft, damage to cables or subsea outages are avoided.
Africa is on the brink of great change. As one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, swift action needs to be taken to generate immediate results and realise the continent’s potential.
Why wait for tomorrow when satellite technology is available today and can empower the billion people across Africa to seize the huge social and economic opportunities? Governments and businesses in Africa should look to the skies for wide-scale, high-speed internet powered by satellite.
View the illustrated article in August's issue of Africa Outlook here.