Johannesburg– Africa’s population is expected to double to 2,4-billion people by 2050. In the next 20 years the number of cities in Africa with more than 10-million inhabitants will also double.
Remote areas are pulling African economies down
Today, over 300-million Africans live more than 50km from the nearest fibre or cable broadband connection – 400-million people have no internet access at all.
That’s 700-million unconnected people, which equates to 60 to 70% of the African population living in remote areas, cut off from the bigger cities without access to information and the necessary facilities required for sustainable growth.
These people, by no fault of their own, are not able to contribute to their countries’ economies, much as they no doubt would want to.
We are aware of a lack of infrastructure in most African countries and the movement of people and goods is difficult and expensive. However, strong and growing demand is expected for broadband and rural connectivity, data and voice services for telecommunications companies, mobile operators, enterprises and government services like education and health.
While full-scale regional trade will help reduce poverty in Africa and improve the living conditions of its people, poor infrastructure is one of the major reasons cited as hampering progress in this area.
Removing trade barriers is back on the agenda. Just a few months ago the AU Assembly launched the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations during the 25th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Governments in Johannesburg.
Digital communications and broadband internet are increasingly important to Africa’s social and economic development. Many governments and public institutions on our continent have already begun to develop broadband policies to address digital inequality but are hindered by costs, infrastructure and inaccessible, non-urban populations.
Satellites have vast coverage and a reach that’s undaunted by mountain, desert, jungle or savannah. Satellite broadband technology is able to deliver a wide range of services across non-urban populations to help drive growth and knowledge transfer. If more people are exposed to information, it is easier for them to grow their knowledge and take advantage of it, enabling them to contribute to the economy.
Increased broadband directly linked to GDP growth
According to research, if a developing nation has 10% more broadband connectivity, it results in a 1.38% GDP growth for that country.
Satellite connectivity enables a country to explore the opportunities and synergies beyond its borders. It can also play a vital role in securing a country’s borders, particularly in the Horn of Africa, to encourage foreign investment.
Satellites are able to provide vital connectivity needs of rural communities on the continent especially in terms of government services in remote areas where there is very little or no terrestrial infrastructure available. This enables smarter networks by combining terrestrial and satellite strengths, delivering connectivity and content in the most cost effective ways to the largest number of users. By being able to reach the masses and grow the Internet the user base, this connectivity has the ability to increase the GDP in many developing nations.
By bridging the digital divide, satellites are able to transform many lives in Africa and contribute to the economy through solutions like e-Agriculture, e-Finance, e-Health, e-Education and e-Government, making connectivity accessible to all non-urban areas and residents at any time.
For example, satellites can be used to efficiently deploy healthcare help by providing online consultations and reports to rural areas. The simple fact is healthy people contribute more to the economy. However, the number of doctors in Africa is very low with only 0.02 doctors per 1000 inhabitants.
Satellites have the ability to minimise this negative impact as local doctors can be supported by experts from around the world via satellite technology.
Connecting non-urban Africa to the world and bringing the world to non-urban Africa
Satellites have the ability to extend information to the rest of the continent and the rest of the world, bringing countries closer together.
When countries are more connected to each other, they are more likely to trade. When there is more trade and more resources, it ultimately has a positive influence on the economy. Also, having a more connected continent lowers the cost of doing business. For instance, it means video conferencing can happen seamlessly, resulting in savings on travel costs which can rather be put back into a business to support its growth.
Satellite is also the perfect platform to expose African goods and services to the world. For example, an artist living in rural parts of Africa can expose their work to a global audience and it can be bought online through electronic payments. However, this is not possible in most rural communities in Africa due to the absence of a broadband connection, the lifeblood of modern commerce.
Africa has solid, long-term growth potential as it looks to improve content, increase its telecoms offering and provide better services to its people. Fibre bridges the digital divide between the western world and Africa, but it does not bridge the digital divide within Africa between urban and non-urban areas.
Satellite has the advantage of reach, providing an efficient way of connecting the majority of the 700-million unconnected people and growing economies on the continent.
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