African economic development over the past decade has been remarkable, with Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy lauded as one of the fastest growing regions in the world. But, thanks to a significant lack of infrastructure, phase two of the continents’ economic transformation is plagued, especially when trying to connect to rural communities.
The proliferation of submarine cables on the East African coast such as EASSY, TEAMS and SEACOM and LION2 has meant that Internet connectivity in Kenya is extensive on the coastal city of Mombasa where the cables land, but other than connecting the capital city Nairobi, there is a dearth of real broadband everywhere else inland.
Ken Munyi, Managing Director, iWayAfrica Kenya, a leading African ISP says that infrastructure remains a key challenge especially for telecommunication providers: “While recent research has listed Kenya third on the African continent in terms of average broadband speeds per country, we face the same major challenges as most in the ICT sector, being able to reach far into the rural areas where people are in dire need of connectivity. It is in these remote places where terrestrial or copper based technologies cannot reach and ISP’s such as iWay Africa have been forced to find inspired ways to resolve the issues.”
According to Informa Telecoms and Media, the ICT sector has the capacity to help transform Africa and allow the continent to become a fully joined up member of the global knowledge economy.
Munyi says he agrees and in some cases this is already starting to happen: “East Africa, Kenya in particular, has seen some great progress. There has been some excellent collaboration between public and private sectors aimed at increasing ICT adoption as well as raising awareness of the endless benefits of ICT. This is not only for individuals, but also for the economy.”
As Africa grapples with its next phase of economic development it simultaneously faces its biggest opportunity and challenge with the Internet. “In March this year we celebrated 25 years of the Internet. I think one of the biggest learning’s has been the impact the Internet has had on business,” says Munyi.
In the McKinsey report, Lions go Digital: The Internet’s Transformative Potential in Africa – it is estimated that in the next decade the Internet will contribute approximately $300bn in GDP with e-commerce growing to more than $75bn. “It is thus undeniable that Africa and the Internet already have a history and more is certainly going to come.”
Having operated in East Africa for almost two decades, Munyi says iWayAfrica has established a strong base and has successfully responded to connectivity issues by offering a myriad of telco products and solutions: “East Africa’s Internet consumers both urban and rural, are able to bridge the digital divide by accessing triple play services (voice, data, video) through iWayAfrica’s satellite technologies. In addition, iWay caters for the rural cellular market by providing a cost effective cellular BTS solution backhauled over an optimised VSAT or terrestrial link to the mobile operator’s core network.”
In light of this IWayAfrica has partnered with Avanti Communications to launch IWay Afri Ka Service making Ka Band broadband service available in the Region, this new service overcomes traditional broadband satellite limitations on throughput and cost creating a whole new scale of possibilities for the region.
In doing this iWayAfrica provide broadband connectivity that at long last places locals on par with global peers: “This can only continue to improve and grow a much healthier economy,” says Munyi.
He says that it is not just about communication; and concludes, quoting Bitange Ndemo, honorary chair, Alliance for Affordable Internet, “The Internet has great transformative potential that can positively impact on poverty. Research has shown that for every 10% increase in Internet penetration, the economy grows by as much as 1.3%. Cheap, ubiquitous connectivity can also transform vital services such as health, education and banking.”