The global pandemic has had a profound impact on the digital landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as across the world. The value of connectivity seems even more pertinent for social and economic wellbeing, especially in this “new normal” era of social distancing and staying at home. COVID-19 has also shown us how vital access to fast and reliable internet is to individuals and businesses.
The mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa has risen to the challenge of keeping everyone connected during these uncertain times, However, the pandemic has highlighted that there is much more to improve for the future.
Mobile connectivity is central to our recovery and GSMA Intelligence reveals that only 28% of Africa’s 1.3 billion citizens currently subscribe to the mobile internet – compared to the global average of 48%. This is a staggering number of people still not connected during a pandemic. Now, more than ever is the time to close this digital divide.
Whilst the world paused, the GSMA, the people behind MWC Barcelona and the global voice of the connectivity industry, set to work to ensure connectivity continued to thrive. So launched the GSMA Thrive Series of virtual events, free-to-access virtual experiences for the digital ecosystem. Attendees will discover conversation guided by technology visionaries, forums to create policy, networking opportunities to forge partnerships – and a packed exhibition list of technology that will define the future and advance business strategy.
GSMA Thrive Africa, brings together the continent’s leaders to create Africa’s most influential technology experience – working to the belief that when everyone and everything is intelligently connected, we can power a better future together. And now is the time to really make that happen.
During GSMA Thrive Africa, over 80 speakers will discuss the theme of Leadership for Connectivity and the continent’s ambitions to create a digitally connected and inclusive future for all. Over the next five years, the region anticipates several important milestones to achieve this goal: half a billion mobile subscribers by 2021, 1 billion mobile connections in 2024 – and 50% subscriber penetration by 2025. Despite the economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 crisis, operators in the region will invest $52 billion in infrastructure rollouts between 2019 and 2025. As the number of smartphone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa reaches 678 million – we will get ever-nearer to our goal of building a more connected world and a better, safer future.
The technology world can not ignore the introduction of 5G networks and its impact across the continent. 5G was launched sooner than expected across the region in 2020 as a result of COVID-19. While this opens up benefits such as faster and more reliable connectivity for business verticals including banking, transport, education and health – there is still significant unused 4G capacity and relatively low adoption of 4G amongst individuals. The opportunity here, while 5G rolls out, is for operators and other stakeholders to increase 4G uptake. This will involve strategies to make 4G devices more affordable and the provision of relevant digital content to drive demand for enhanced connectivity services.
This rise of connectivity for all, will also lead to the Generation of Digital Citizens. As we move forward across the digital horizon, GSMA Thrive Africa looks at how technology and mobile connectivity can open up a world of opportunity for more diversity, success across STEM sectors and unleash potential in everyone, no matter their background.
GSMA Thrive Africa’s biggest goal is to connect the full digital ecosystem to advance the world’s digital economy and fuel innovation. Under the theme of Accelerate Africa, the event will explore the ways that connectivity and the mobile industry drives a social impact and contributes to economic growth. In 2019, mobile technologies and services generated 9% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa. The mobile ecosystem also supported almost 3.8 million jobs and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $17 billion raised through taxation. It is anticipated that by 2024, mobile’s contribution will reach around $184 billion as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased take-up of mobile services. Accelerate Africa uncovers opportunities to drive partnerships and growth within corporates, brands, investors and tech hubs. It will also explore what Africa needs to achieve to build an ecosystem for startups to thrive.
The importance of the mobile industry’s contribution to Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy is significant and will continue to be so. In fact, it is predicted that mobile’s contribution to GDP will rise to $185 billion by 2024. Mobile internet users are also expected to increase from 29% of the population to 39%. The biggest increase is for IoT which sees total connections rising from 5.2 billion in 2019, to 11.5 billion by 2025. Over the next five years, it is also expected that half of the population will subscribe to mobile services.
As well as the themes mentioned in this article, we will also talk about the Health of the Internet – how we can all use data for doing good, while building trust into the DNA of every digital product and device. In addition, we will uncover key insights around how mobile technology is empowering a sustainable and ethical future in our theme, One People, One Purpose. Whilst Building Wakanda explores how future tech is reimagining our lives with AI, Mixed Reality, Drones, Robotics and 3D printing.
Our challenges have never been more complex, connectivity has never been more important, one thing is certain – we are all in this together. The GSMA is honoured to continue to build bridges in times of need. Later this month technology innovators, digital creators and policy leaders will gather together on one URL
We are honoured to work with our founding partners of GSMA Thrive Africa: Mastercard, MTN, Orange and ZTE.
Leading brands supporting #GSMAThrive Africa also include our headline theme sponsors: Huawei, Intelsat, MFS Africa, Safaricom. Supporting theme sponsors: Access to Finance Rwanda, Africa50, Comviva, Facebook, Famoco and Standard Bank.
We’re also delighted to continue working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and CNBC International as official partners of #GSMAThrive Africa – ensuring this gathering truly changes the boundaries of connectivity. Access to Thrive Africa 2020 virtual event is free and takes place on Tuesday 29 September – Thursday 1 October. You can register and get involved now.