Telecommunications companies have a significant role to play in Africa as accelerators of growth, as we seek to reduce the digital divide and build a resilient post-pandemic economy.
The best strategies to achieve this are yet to be identified, but it is clear that the solution will be a combination of financial investment, infrastructure, expanded high-speed broadband connectivity and the deployment of innovation for which the telecommunications industry is so well known.
At Delta Partners, we recently conducted research and produced a report on the post-pandemic outlook for telecom operators, where we consolidated the expert opinions of about 100 senior telecommunications executives from around the world.
At the regional level in Africa, confinement saw a significant increase in data connectivity. This was due to a clear increase in consumer acceptance in applications such as videoconferencing, video streaming, social networks and games. A similar growth in data consumption has been seen in the business field, as business has rapidly shifted to work from home models.
Also significant was that, on the company side, there was clear evidence of the pent-up demand for cloud-based solutions. In the short, medium term, it can be safely assumed that there will be a need to build and expand reliable, secure, low-latency networks.
On the issue of capital expenditures, while leaders in Europe saw a slowdown in spending after the pandemic, the situation was quite different in Africa. About 58% of leaders operating in African countries saw the pandemic as an industry accelerator.
Deepening the survey results, on the issue of network models and infrastructure investment, Africa emerged as the region with the highest score, with 83% of respondents counting on an increase in the move to passive infrastructure sharing models and 75% of respondents saw an increase in the adoption of RAN sharing.
Regarding the impact of the pandemic on their brands, 67% of respondents in Africa believed that there was an overall positive impact on their brand due to the quick responses they were able to demonstrate to reduce anxiety and uncertainty during the outbreak, where they had demonstrated their ability to handle the highest network traffic.
Outlook for smart infrastructure spending
At a high level, the telecommunications sector has shown good resilience in most African countries and the survey results point to good prospects for the telecommunications sector in Africa. However, there is a condition. The success of the expansion of telecommunications will depend on the correct approach of the industry in relation to investments, as well as partnerships.
This includes the pace at which we build - or reuse - large-scale infrastructure for greater data connectivity.
Greater focus is needed on the investment and operational aspects of the infrastructure contracting (infringement) parts of the telecommunications business.
With its large youth demographics, Africa will continue to experience high levels of rural to urban migration, and will need to diversify economies to create growth and provide growth stimulus in other industries. The most effective way to do this is to encourage a shift from commodity-based sectors to the ICT industry.
This will also require an expansion of telecommunications networks. At first glance, investment in telecommunications infrastructure may seem a daunting prospect, and given the relative underinvestment in infrastructure in most African countries, partnership models can be a way of minimizing investment risk and achieving a higher level of investment. success.
For example, Africa's 6,5 million km of roads can be used to transport telecommunications cables. As well as our electricity networks, complete with cable transport poles. Even aqueducts can carry telecommunications cables, while street poles can double as 5G base stations.
Teamwork makes the African dream work
Digital inclusion is vital for all African economies. It offers opportunities as a sector in its own right, while providing the connectivity that can transform legacy industries and equip them for the future. However, building the telecommunications infrastructure to enable it can be expensive. Africa will have to invest smartly. Investing smart means working with what we have and building partnerships.
Public-private, corporate-SME, corporate-community, government-community… All of these partnerships will become important as Africa seeks to prepare itself - and its people - for the digital future.
Fortunately, working together is a strongly African mentality. If we can successfully translate this propensity to collaborate, in the telecommunications space, using infrastructure sharing and intersectoral partnerships, the digital empowerment of our people may well be the salvation of our continent.
Article prepared by Sharoda Rapeti, non-executive partner of the consulting firm Delta Partners. Published in MenosFios with permission from your press office.