By Nora Wahby, Vice President/Head, Customer Unit West Africa, Ericsson Middle East and Africa
It is an irrefutable reality that access to the internet has revolutionized economies all over the world. Mobile broadband has significantly transformed the way people connect, socialize, communicate, and work. It also supports how we exchange ideas and information, accelerates economic development and projects positive outlook for the future.
Governments, industries, and businesses, both large and small, have remodeled their operations and embraced digital innovations that have radically transformed economies and promoted globalization.
The internet-based economy, expanding across Africa and several countries, has grown significantly in the last decade alone.
More and more critical services, including healthcare, education, banking, and retail, are being offered online. The continent has indeed experienced an impressive development of Information Communications Technology (ICT) with an enormous growth potential.
According to Ericsson Mobility Report, published in June 2022 the Middle East and North Africa region is forecasted to reach nearly 200 million 5G subscriptions by 2027. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 4G subscriptions grew by 26 percent in 2021 and strong growth is expected to continue throughout this year. Data traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa is also forecasted to maintain an upward trajectory, as mobile broadband-capable devices become more accessible.
Fueling this rapid transformation is the uptake of Ericsson’s 5G network, which is already operational in few markets in the African region. This will bring about a significant boost to the socio-economic ecosystem and lead to inclusive growth that allows sub-Saharan Africa to participate in the digital economy.
According to the GSMA Mobile Economy report published in May 2020, predicted that 5G could add $2.2 trillion to Africa’s economy by 2034. This means that today, more than ever, the promise of a young population and the rapid expansion of 5G has already set the stage for a wide range of opportunities, starting with a higher standard of living and a better quality of life.
Digital adoption is incomplete if it is not all inclusive. This is why it has become critical to leave no one behind in driving digital economies. While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly spurred digital adoption, it has also increased emphasis on addressing the global digital divide, now more than ever.
We, at Ericsson, recognize that digital literacy and skills training are as important as coverage and infrastructure, in achieving digital and financial inclusion across the continent. This is why we have a variety of projects that promote equitable digital inclusion throughout sub-Saharan Africa, in line with our commitment to enable #AfricaInMotion.
Connect to Learn
Ericsson’s “Connect to Learn” program is a good example of how we can promote equitable digital inclusion. The program implements Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools, especially in underserved regions, to improve access to quality teaching and learning materials in a safe, cost-effective, and user-friendly manner.
The initiative uses mobile internet and cloud technologies. The Connect to Learn initiative has reached over 200,000 students located across 25 countries to date and has assisted in connecting, students and teachers in remote villages across Africa with technology tools, digital learning resources, and new interactive forms of teaching methods.
Empowering young people with digital skills such as coding and programming is critical to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. Through our Digital Lab program, we train young people in programming and new technologies in a number of countries. In South Africa, for instance, the initiative has contributed to increased digital literacy and adoption among youth.
Access to teaching and learning materials on new technologies is one of the key drivers of digital adoption. Ericsson Educate, an online portal we introduced during the pandemic in partnership with UNESCO, gives teachers and learners unlimited access to Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills. Teachers, parents, and instructors from all over the world can use the platform to help children and students learn more about this emerging technology.
Financial Inclusion (Ericsson Wallet Platform)
The impact of Mobile Money in driving digital inclusion as well as furthering the economic development of Africa cannot be overemphasized. Mobile Money is an essential and life-changing tool for individuals throughout Africa. Ericsson’s Wallet Platform, which has powered a number of mobile financial services across the continent, is helping consumers and businesses save, transfer, and withdraw money; pay merchants and utility providers; and access financial services such as savings and loans.
Public-private partnerships will undoubtedly propel Africa’s digital adoption. Two years ago, Ericsson broke new ground to become the first private sector partner to make a multimillion-dollar commitment and significant in-kind contribution to support the joint UNICEF-ITU Giga initiative for global school connectivity. By embarking on that journey, we committed to our belief, based on decades of experience with public-private partnerships, that successful partnerships cannot be built on financial backing alone. Ericsson’s financial and in-kind support have contributed to Giga’s achievements to date in connecting over 5,000 schools and over 2 million students.
At Ericsson, we believe that digital literacy is central to driving an innovative and sustainable knowledge-based ecosystem. We are therefore proud to play our part in leading digital adoption across the continent. Reducing digital inequality across the continent is a promise, and we will continue to be at the forefront of driving a more promising and connected future for sub-Saharan Africa.