Whether it is infrastructure, applications, information systems or software, the African market by 2050 will be made up of more than 2 billion people. The establishment and development of call centers is becoming increasingly necessary. Now native mobile applications are designed to respond to African culture. As for e-commerce, in Nigeria it greatly surpasses traditional commerce. So what are the prospects for Africa in the IT and telecoms sector?
What are the assets available to the African continent?
Contrary to popular belief, the African continent manages to develop a valuation of human capital with structured and specific skills. Indeed, many developers from West Africa are renowned for the advanced technologies they design. In addition, they are able to anticipate the cultural needs and consumption patterns of local populations.
Ultimately, it is not foolish to think that Africa is quite capable of outperforming Asia in terms of IT development. Africa, thanks to the small time difference between the continent and Europe, is now positioned as a major player in the framework of cooperation with Europe. Indeed, all European IT services companies wish to establish partnerships with competent foreign companies, operating in the same sector of activity. However, one of the prerequisites concerns in particular the possibility of being in permanent contact with the teams abroad.
In the new technologies sector, the know-how of African engineers is well established. Many groups such as Bolloré or SAP have understood this perfectly. In fact, in 2014 SAP made a commitment to invest $ 500 million in Africa by 2020. SAP’s objective is to improve the skills of local talents through the establishment of a training program for 10,000 consultants and launching hubs in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco and Angola. .
The limited number of operators: a real obstacle
Africa is characterized by the small number of mobile telephone operators in particular. The choice available to African populations is often limited to two or three providers. Despite the attempts of some companies, eager to position themselves in this market segment, so far only the “giants” have succeeded in asserting themselves, like Orange, which has acquired many local operators.
These include, for example, the takeover of Cellcom in Liberia or Airtel, an Indian company, in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. Still, in the space of 15 years, between 2000 and 2015, Africa has grown from 60 to 180 telephone operators. Somalia then had 9 operators. Unfortunately, many of these new players have been engaged in a price war such as it is today that they are unable to cope financially. Today it is therefore essential that the market for telephone operators can open up to new providers.
ICT: a real opportunity that Africa has seized
Many African companies are deploying technological solutions that they offer users to discover, such as mobile banking implemented in Kenya. It is about taking advantage of financial services by relying on mobile telephony. The advantage of this solution? Transaction costs are much lower (5% commission fees on average) than those charged by traditional money transfer companies (around 24%).
In addition, this mode of transaction, thanks to the high coverage rates, makes it possible to reach a wider audience than financial transactions carried out over the counter.
Kenyan IT company Mbetsa Innovations (manufactured products) supplies car locks. These are operated using SMS and GPRS technology to prevent vehicle theft or locate stolen cars. The owners thus monitor their car remotely (by mobile phone). In addition, if necessary, they can also shut down the engine. Morris Mbetsa invented this security system at the end of his high school education.
Francophone Africa is not left out either. Indeed, two Senegalese telecommunications engineers created the Diamond application. This is a system designed to combat the shortage of blood. This allows alerts to be sent, in the form of voice messages or written in the mother tongues of the populations concerned, to medical services and residents.
In the face of new emerging trends, how can Africa position itself?
In the coming years, the use of machine learning and biometric technologies will become more and more prevalent around the world. Africa must therefore rule now to position itself as a leader in different market segments.
Among the opportunities available to the African continent, the development of biometric security represents a sector of activity in which Africa can play a major role. Indeed, on the African continent the sale of “low-cost” mobile phones equipped with biometric security should be considered as a catalyst allowing the generalization in Africa of biometric technology which concerns several sectors of activity including national identification. A new system has also been put in place within ECOWAS which also allows travel within the ECOWAS area.
The rapid growth of 3G / 4G and then 5G networks associated with digital use focused primarily on mobile phones must influence the development of cybersecurity. Faced with increasing cybercrime, it is essential that Africa equip itself with the necessary means to fight against it. Indeed, the economic impact on a country affected by a cyber attack negatively impacts the economy of a country. In 2015, the amount of cybercrime amounted to 0.28% of its GDP compared to 0.07% for other African countries.
This cybersecurity issue must be resolved quickly by the entire African continent. Indeed, more and more mobile applications relying on “machine learning” are being developed in the health and safety sectors. In Zimbabwe, the Dr Cadx system uses machine learning on medical imaging to assist medical professionals in making their diagnoses.
To develop this type of solution, it is essential that Africa equips itself with adequate infrastructure, that internet connection prices be revised downwards, that public and private investment policies provide incentives, etc. As soon as these measures are integrated by African countries, the continent will be able to position itself as a key player.