Africa’s Internet economy is set to boom

Benard Chinyemba (right), a qualified mechanical engineer, inspects a sugar bean crop with his son (left) at his 80-hectare Benchi farm in Glendale, near Harare - AFP
Benard Chinyemba (right), a qualified mechanical engineer, inspects a sugar bean crop with his son (left) at his 80-hectare Benchi farm in Glendale, near Harare - AFP

Improved affordability of mobiles and growing demand for phones is key to expansion, research shows


A Staff Reporter

Published: Tue 1 Mar 2022, 6:24 PM

Africa’s Internet economy will witness strong growth, with mobile phones being central to this expansion, new global research for blockchain-based mobile network operator World Mobile shows.

The study with professional investors responsible for around $700 billion assets under management by independent research company PureProfile found that one in four expect the value of Africa’s Internet economy to more than double over the next three years from the current estimated $115 billion. In addition, more than half expect it to be worth more than $200 billion by 2025.

Increased use of mobile phones will be central to the growth which will be further enhanced by improved affordability, the study with investors in the US, Germany, the UK, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Nigeria, and Switzerland found.

Around 71 per cent of investors expect affordability of mobile phones in Africa to improve over the next three years – currently it is estimated they account for around 6.8 per cent of monthly incomes on average – while 97 per cent of all professional investors believe the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated demand for mobiles.

World Mobile is launching its unique hybrid mobile network supported by low altitude platform balloons in Zanzibar which it plans to roll-out throughout the continent. It is already in discussions with government officials in Tanzania and Kenya, as well as other territories underserviced by traditional mobile operators.

Micky Watkins, CEO of World Mobile, said: “Professional investors see the opportunities for the African internet economy and are clearly expecting mobile phones to play a central role in driving it forward over the next three years."

“Affordability is central to the increasing adoption of mobile phones but none of it is achievable without connectivity. We want to help create a world where everyone can access affordable connectivity, a world where economic freedom is a truth and a world where people are able to jump on the opportunities that internet creates,” Watkins said.

Professional investors questioned believe healthcare is the sector which will see the most benefit from increased connectivity. Around 53 per cent highlighted the opportunities for healthcare ahead of e-commerce on 42 per cent and media and entertainment on 40 per cent.

Education was chosen by 33 per cent of professional investors questioned alongside finance which was selected by 34 per cent.

World Mobile’s balloons will be the first to officially launch in Africa for commercial use, providing a more cost-effective way to provide digital connection to people and is the first step in its mission to help bring nearly four billion people online before 2030 in line with the UN and World Bank’s SDGs.

The World Mobile approach is more sustainable, in environmental, social and governance terms. Environmental impacts are mitigated using solar-powered nodes, second-life batteries, and energy-efficient technology. World Mobile creates a positive societal impact through the application its circular economy model – a “sharing economy” where locals share in the ownership and rewards of the network. Governance is maintained by the secure underlying blockchain technology, which means that user data privacy is guaranteed and not commercially applied as it is by other mobile operators.

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