African Telecommunication Union secretary-general John Amo called (pictured) for African nations to place fibre deployment at the heart of their fiscal plans to attract private investors to drive economic growth or face being left further behind on the global stage.
Speaking at Broadband Africa Forum in Cape Town, Amo said: “Africa still lags way below the global average in terms of broadband deployment and that should be a fact that drives us to do more as regulators, operators and policymakers - to put the jigsaw together to accelerate deployment of broadband in Africa.”
He highlighted a World Bank study that showed for every 10% boost in broadband penetration in low and middle-income countries, GDP sees a boost of 1.38%.
“Limited broadband, inevitably leads to limited industrial progression, inefficient trade and information sharing. That leads directly to a disadvantageous place for Africa on the global trade, political and other fabric of the ecosystem - whether it be political, economic or social,” said Amo.
The secretary-general urged African nations to place “broadband development at the core” of their plans, which will yield global economic and social development for the continent.
He pointed out the private sector will be crucial to broadband deployment as governments are “often not good investors” in connectivity. However, governments have to play a vital role in providing the grounds for companies to thrive.
Amo noted the rise in smartphone adoption has “opened the door” for the private sector to invest and develop “innovative business models”, particularly in Egypt, Senegal, and South Africa.
But to ensure governments and the private sector collaborate effectively, Amo laid out a three-point plan. First, governments need to form a team dedicated to delivering a broadband development strategy. He said most African countries had adopted one but more need to follow.
Second is the right fiscal policies from governments to encourage broadband deployment by private sector players, an example he stated was tax rebates for laying down cables.
His third point was fostering young talent with IT skills to truly harness superfast connectivity and create innovative products and solutions.
Amo concluded by calling for African nations to collaborate more and not think of “state sovereignty” for the purpose of streamlined connectivity, to attract more private investors.
“We need to realise that the more we integrate our markets, the more we will be able to ensure that we have a bigger share of the [global] pie. We need to ensure that broadband deployment across traditional national boundaries is ensured and that comes when we harmonise our policies as much as possible across borders to ensure that the market is a lot bigger to interest companies to operate in our sphere,” said Amo.