Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, with the number of cities on the continent with over 10 million inhabitants equally doubling over the same two-decade period.
It is expected that Africa’s population will double to 2.4 billion people by 2050.
To reduce poverty levels and improve the living conditions of these inhabitants, full-scale regional trade has been touted as one of the best and most feasible solutions.
However we are well aware that a lack of infrastructure in most African countries and the movement of people and goods is difficult and expensive. The low infrastructure has not sparred the telecommunications sector.
Today, over 300 million Africans live more than 50 kilometres from the nearest fibre or cable broadband connection – 400 million people have no internet access at all, that’s 700 million unconnected people.
This equates to 60 – 70% of the African population living in remote area lack access to information and the necessary facilities required for sustainable growth. These people, by no fault of their own, are pulling their country backwards as they are not able to contribute to the economy, as much as they no doubt would want to.
Digital communications and broadband Internet are therefore increasingly important to Africa’s social and economic development. Many governments and public institutions on our continent have already begun to develop broadband policies to address digital inequality but are hindered by costs, infrastructure and inaccessible, non-urban populations.
Satellites can be the silver bullet to these problems.
Satellites have vast coverage and a reach that’s undaunted by mountain, desert, jungle or savannah. Satellite broadband technology is able to deliver a wide range of services across non-urban populations to help drive growth and knowledge transfer. If more people are exposed to information, it is easier for them to grow their knowledge and take advantage of it, enabling them to contribute to the economy.
According to our research, if a developing nation has 10% more broadband connectivity, it results in a 1.38% GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth for that country.
Satellite connectivity enables a country to explore the opportunities and synergies beyond its borders. It can also play a vital role in securing a country’s borders, particularly in the horn of Africa where there is a high insecurity, additionally it encourages foreign investment.
Additionally satellites are able to provide vital connectivity needs of rural communities on the continent especially in terms of government services in remote areas where there is very little or no terrestrial infrastructure available. This enables smarter networks by combining terrestrial and satellite strengths, delivering connectivity and content in the most cost effective ways to the largest number of users. By being able to reach the masses and grow the Internet the user base, this connectivity has the ability to increase the GDP in many developing nations.
By bridging the digital divide, satellites are able to transform many lives in Africa and contribute to the economy through solutions like e-Agriculture, e-Finance, e-Health, e-Education and e-Government making connectivity accessible to all non-urban areas and residents at any time.
For example, satellites can be used to efficiently deploy healthcare help by providing online consultations and reports to rural areas. The simple fact is healthy people contribute more to the economy. However, the number of doctors in Africa is very low with only 0.02 doctors per 1000 inhabitants far below the World Health Organisation recommendation of one doctor per 1000 patients. Satellites have the ability to minimise this negative impact as local doctors can be supported by experts from around the world via satellite technology.
Connecting non-urban Africa to the World and bringing the World to non-urban Africa
Satellites have the ability to extend information to the rest of the continent and the rest of the world, bringing countries closer together.
When countries are more connected to each other, the more likely they are to trade. When there is more trade and more resources, it ultimately has a positive influence on the economy. Also, having a more connected continent lowers the cost of doing business. For instance, it means video conferencing can happen seamlessly, resulting in savings on travel costs which can rather be put back into a business to support its growth.
Satellite is also the perfect platform to expose African goods and services to the world. For example, an artist living in rural parts of Africa can expose their work to a global audience and it can be bought online through electronic payments. However, this is not possible in most rural communities in Africa due to the absence of a broadband connection, the lifeblood of modern commerce.
Africa has solid, long-term growth potential as it looks to improve content, increase its telecoms offering and provide better services to its people. Fibre bridges the digital divide between the Western World and Africa, but it does not bridge the digital divide within Africa between urban and non-urban areas. Satellite has the advantage of reach, providing an efficient way of connecting the majority of the 700 million unconnected people and growing economies on the continent.