Recently, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) said the African continent needs digital innovation to spill over into all sectors of business and society to strengthen the continent’s digital economy.
This was made known by ATU general secretary John Omo.
Omo said, “According to the World Bank, Africa requires US$100 trillion to achieve full digital transformation, and no one, in the public or private sector, can do this alone.”
Omo introduced a ministerial forum, saying: “Through the power of investment and regulation, together we can craft a framework that will give effect to the growth and development we want to see.”
Sharing different views during a keynote panel on the eve of major digital infrastructure event AfricaCom 2022 – on how Africa’s tech history contains the roots of its future – the chair of investment management company Convergence Partners, Andile Ngcaba, said regulators in the sector could hinder the sector’s growth.
Ngcaba said that enabling the industry would include building and giving access to the necessary infrastructure, services, fibre, spectrum and the release of it, and more.
Recalling South Africa’s long journey to increasing available spectrum, Ngcaba noted that the waiting cycle of awarding spectrum could cause business models to fail, devastatingly affecting the economy.
Group deputy executive chair at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Nic Rudnick, echoed a similar perspective, saying regulators in some countries have been assertive but that many other countries have not experienced the same fortune, with regulators impeding the rollout of new generation networks.
“I think some regulators need to understand that sometimes keeping out of the way of the industry is the best way to encourage development. History tells us that the rapid growth of the mobile industry across Africa happened at a time when there were low levels of regulation rather than high,” Rudnick added.
Commenting on Africa’s digital potential, Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne, said the informal sector needs to be developed to increase the total usage of internet services: on the continent and, ultimately, the digital economy.
Opeke noted that getting the informal sector online, giving it a digital identity and presence, and providing locally relevant services in the daily lives and incomes of the users in the industry, will boost Africa’s digital economy.