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The telecoms sector will be the fastest-growing industry in Africa

The telecoms sector will be the fastest-growing industry in the African continent over the next five years as internet connectivity improves, according to new research done with business leaders for blockchain-based mobile network operator World Mobile.

When asked to pick the three sectors that they believe will see the strongest growth over the next five years, three out of four (75 percent) senior executives selected telecoms in the study.

This sector was comfortably ahead of the healthcare sector which emerged as the second choice selected by 61 percent of survey respondents as one of three industries that will see the strongest growth ahead of tourism at 44 percent.

Senior executives at companies with combined annual revenues of more than $6.75 billion based in Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa were interviewed for the study.

TheImprovement in internet connectivity was identified as central to the growth in the economy and across all sectors. Around two-thirds (66 percent) said it was important while 20 percent believed it is very important.

World Mobile is helping to revolutionise internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa and is already working with the government in Zanzibar where it is launching a unique hybrid mobile network delivering connectivity supported by low altitude platform balloons.

Its blockchain-based network vastly reduces capital expenditure and cuts costs compared to

traditional telecom operators. World Mobile is in discussions to expand in Tanzania and Kenya, as well as other territories underserviced by traditional mobile operators.

Micky Watkins, chief executive at World Mobile said the expansion of telecoms across the African continent is central to driving economic growth and senior business executives clearly agree as they ranked it well ahead of other major sectors of the economy. “To a great extent, growth in telecoms spurs growth in other sectors as societies become more

digital and technology focused and that applies very much to financial services, healthcare, retail and education,” Watkins said.

He said that not all parts of Africa however had strong internet connectivity and they wanted to help by providing a service which was affordable and reliable and looked forward to working with governments across the continent.

According to the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, Africa has the lowest number of Internet connections with only 22 percent of the continent having access. The institution said this also meant that it had the largest potential for progress.

The African Union, with support from the World Bank Group, has set the goal of connecting every individual, business, and government on the continent by 2030.

World Mobile’s balloons will be the first to officially launch in Africa for commercial use, offering a more cost-effective way to provide digital connection to people and is the first step in its mission to help bring nearly four billion people online before 2030 in line with the UN and World Bank’s SDGs.

The company described its approach as more sustainable, in environmental, social and governance terms. Environmental impacts were mitigated using solar-powered nodes, second-life batteries, and energy-efficient technology. World Mobile created a positive societal impact through the application of its circular economy model – a “sharing economy” where locals share in the ownership and rewards of the network.

In April, Lee Ramsden the Head Sales and Distribution at Standard Bank Standard Bank Mobile (MVNO) said that in the post-COVID-19 environment, access to digital devices and the internet had become a must-have for school assignments, healthcare, communicating with friends and family, finding a job, or starting a business. He said that yet, many South African families remained unconnected and are thus excluded from the opportunities that connectivity provides.

According to The State of ICT in South Africa report, most South Africans could not afford to connect online due to data costs, and lack of internet-enabled devices. Data costs in South Africa were notoriously high when compared to other emerging markets, with research showing that SA’s data costs were about six times higher when compared to other emerging economies.

There has been a significant uptick in demand for internet access because of the pandemic and remote working and learning. Last year, 36.45 million South Africans accessed the internet through any kind of mobile devices. In 2026, this figure was projected to amount to almost 43 million mobile internet users, up by 17.5 percent from 2021, figures from Statista show. IOL

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