One of our staff just wrapped up a trip to East Africa and realized this; Internet is still expensive in Africa. In this era, access to a reliable, affordable and fast internet is an required to advance significant economic programs on the continent. As such, it is a major barrier for entrepreneurs looking to tap into internet-based businesses. Why?
1. Local Governments
In recent years, African governments have undertaken major infrastructure projects. This has benefited specific industries like energy, construction, transportation and tourism. However, the Information Technology industry is still lacking behind contrary to what officials say. There has been little impact and the cost is too high crippling entrepreneurs. Is it due to lack of qualified workforce? Limited capital and public investment? Lack of public interest? Governments have a critical role in the economics of lowering the cost of Internet if they want to compete globally.
Africa has talent. Lots of it. Young people are energized and always innovating. There are already many Internet-based companies in Africa representing different industries like agriculture, healthcare, money transfer, food delivery, etc. However, their current circumstance can be best described using the iceberg analogy. The part above the water, represents what they are currently able to accomplish with limited internet availability. The part under the water, represents the untapped potential companies could explore once the internet becomes widely available and affordable.
3. African’s Perception of Technology
The average African does not yet grasp the versatility of the internet. However, the African population is young and increasingly becoming consumer of technology. The internet will increasingly play a major role in unlocking their full potential, both as supply (creative side) as well as demand (consumer side). It would be a strategic mistake to turn a blind eye this behavioral change. The infrastructure to support such needs in the future should be put in place urgently since adaptability does not happen overnight.
4. Foreign Investment
Investors could make or break a deal based on the availability and cost of Internet in any given African country. New internet-based companies can use foreign capital (either financially or expertise), to start operations and grow in Africa. This will only happen when the Information Technology infrastructure is solid enough to attract investors from all over the world. As things stand today, one can only wonder how many business opportunities Africans are missing on?