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Some African Countries Are Taking the LEAD in ICT Technologies

19 February, 2013
Many of us have often argued that African countries should not follow all the steps that have been taken a long time ago by developed countries when developing ICTs. A number of African countries are doing precisely that in a number of areas, from online services to infrastructure development.

While developed countries that started deploying optical fibre networks from as far back as 1980 started with low capacity transmission speeds in their backbone, such as STM1s (or 155Mbps) when the demand for capacity was low, African countries deploying backbone networks today cannot afford to follow that path. While the majority of all backbone transmission systems throughout the world are 10Gbps, we have noticed that some African operators are looking at going directly to 100Gbps, a technology that even some of the most advanced operators in the world have not yet embraced. Unitel Angola is an example of a forward looking African operator that has already deployed 40 channels of 100Gbps between two of their busy switching centres.

Many are probably aware of the Mobile Money service that was initiated by Safaricom in Kenya as “M-Pesa” and is now being adapted by many countries throughout the world. Just by clicking a few keys on the mobile phone, money can be instantly transferred from a person’s account to their loved ones in the rural areas where it can be collected at designated Mobile Money centres. We recently learnt that a Zimbabwean version of this technology, Zim Switch, will enable passengers to pay for their mini-bus fares on their cell phones – greatly reducing the need for paper money. With Mobile Money technology now being extended to locations overseas, those of us in the Diaspora will finally find a more reliable and cost effective way of sending money to our loved ones back in Africa.

Sometimes I wonder why, in a country as advanced as the USA, I still have to complete an immigration paper form when entering the country. The form provides information such as passport number, date of birth etc. which is readily available by scanning the passport. In some African countries, such as South Africa, they have made this process paperless and painless by requiring the passport to be scanned without the need to complete a paper form. In Kenya, they are even coming up with a way for visitors to the country to apply for visas electronically and eliminate the need to complete forms at the airport.

Finally, during an Investment Climate Facility (ICF) Summit in Da es Salaam, Tanzania, we were informed that Rwanda is among the world leaders in the efficiency and speed of registering a new company, ahead of the USA. It takes three days to complete all the procedures for registering a new company with the aid of the Internet. More details about Rwanda’s efficiency of doing business can be found in the World Bank’s Doing Business document for Rwanda.


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