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Africa is racing to meet the global standards of digital transformation for economic growth and sustainability. The continent’s need to grow its digital landscape is all the more relevant when you consider that McKinsey predicts that new digital ecosystems will generate more than $60 trillion in global economic revenue by 2025.

Around the world, the rapid pace of digital transformation continues to inspire new ways of working. Indeed, the Internet, the holy grail of digital evolution, has been an important driver of job opportunities and global economic growth over the past decade.

When the United Nations (UN) formulated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for its member countries, an important part of that agenda was promoting global decent work and economic growth through digital innovation and technology.

Africa’s young urban population is prominently using internet connectivity to create job opportunities and empower themselves amid alarming levels of unemployment. Africa, which has the youngest, fastest-growing and most urbanized workforce, could enjoy a $180 billion internet economy by 2025 thanks to increased consumption of online services, according to the E-Economy Africa 2020 report by Google and the International Finance Corporation.

The report also suggests that increasing internet penetration to 75 percent could create 44 million new jobs. These statistics show that the continent’s predominantly young population requires accelerated measures to boost internet penetration and access, which will ultimately boost economic growth opportunities.

We must now maximize these economic opportunities by improving the quality of network services and broadband penetration now available on the continent. This is important given that the World Development Report suggests that advanced economies can catch up
a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration would mean a 1.21 percent increase in GDP growth, while the same expansion would see developing economies achieve 1.38 percent GDP growth.

It is a difficult task. The World Bank estimates that Africa will require an investment of about $100 billion to make the Internet accessible to every citizen by 2030. I am particularly concerned that the continent, with its particular socio-economic and socio-political complexities, has its work cut out for it. United Nations.

What actions or strategies are required to build inclusive digital technologies that will put us on track to achieve UN SDG 8, which is about ensuring decent work and promoting economic growth? Despite the many challenges facing Africa’s digital ecosystem, we can take calculated steps to focus on aspects that have the potential for the desired outcome.

The starting point will include improving the provision and accessibility of quality Internet services. By providing quality and reliable internet access, we will surely provide opportunities to the youth in various fields of interest, promote innovation and entrepreneurship in ICT and promote viable small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This strategic improvement is needed to create flexible working opportunities and trade, which in turn will drive wider social and economic development.

For example, the continent’s most populous nation, Nigeria, with more than 33.6 million 15- to 35-year-olds, needs to improve its limited access to quality and reliable Internet. Expanded Internet access can significantly alleviate the country’s growing youth unemployment of 19.61 percent. As work dynamics continue to evolve in today’s digital environment, with many organizations employing talent in a globally remote and hybrid work culture, reliable internet service will ensure more young people can take full advantage of global opportunities without experiencing the frustrations of poor internet.

The deployment of 5G technology will specifically ensure that remote workers from anywhere in the world can quickly download and upload large files, access cloud-based applications with minimal latency, and collaborate on projects in real time. 5G-enabled virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies will similarly impact team dynamics, reducing the isolation that can occur through remote work through immersive and engaging communication. We will find the same impact of 5G technology in the field of entertainment and security. Users of the fifth generation network can enjoy a more seamless viewing experience by streaming high-quality video content with minimal buffering, while 5G-enabled cameras can provide real-time video streams with minimal latency, enabling homeowners to remotely control their properties. I am particularly excited about MTN’s commitment to improving access to internet service in Nigeria.

The desire to drive this level of quality broadband is reflected in our recent launch of the 5G network in Nigeria. The next-generation network is projected to inject an additional $2.2 trillion into Africa’s economy by 2034, boasting internet speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps, dwarfing the 80 Mbps previously available.

By providing this option of internet technology, MTN is now able to provide proper targeted connectivity in different areas of Nigeria. Public and private institutions and individual Internet users can rely on 5G service to achieve fast online tool response time, superior video conferencing, quality remote office work, and employee productivity and storage needs.

Indeed, MTN has been a champion in providing quality network access across the country since its inception and we are now poised to take broadband penetration to the next level. With existing 3G and 4G networks and high-speed fiber broadband, we have been able to drive Internet penetration and access in urban and rural Nigeria over the past 15 years. We are now fully committed to widening access to quality internet service to promote a globally recognized digital economy in Nigeria and in line with the Federal Government’s National Broadband Plan to achieve at least 70 percent internet penetration by 2025.

One thing is certain, with the commercial deployment of the 5G network, Nigeria has taken a giant step towards expanding internet connectivity to meet global standards.
Ikenna-Emeka is General Manager, Fixed Broadband, MTN, wrote from Lagos.

The rollout of 5G technology in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri and Maiduguri speaks to the localization of global digital transformation initiatives and enables us to further provide superior services to internet users to work better and improve the economy.

I have to say that this is where we want to be as a nation that is laser focused on building a digitally vibrant economy. While there is room for improvement, our broadband penetration benchmarks over the past few years are encouraging. For example, companies like Meta and Starlink have started using satellite technology to provide Internet connectivity around the world, including Nigeria. It will be interesting to see how this mix of internet options accelerates our broadband penetration aspirations.

Whether Africa will achieve its ambitions of near-perfect digital connectivity and inclusion over the next three years remains to be seen. There is more work to be done to achieve the levels of internet penetration we require at both urban and rural levels to meet global standards. We will have to use the right levels of investment and cooperation. However, there is no doubt that the continent has received a huge boost with the launch of the 5G network.

Africa’s journey towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is still ongoing and I believe that further public-private partnerships will push us to do better. MTN, I can safely say, will continue to be right in the thick of the action.

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