Connected Correlation: How the Internet is Driving Growth in African Businesses

Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Opening up a news app or viewing mainstream media, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Internet is still a dream for most Africans.

Opening up a news app or viewing mainstream media, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that the Internet is still a dream for most African countries.

In reality, the Internet is having a huge impact in Africa, and while the penetration is not the same as in developed countries, the mobile and data connectivity revolution is alive and well on the continent of Africa.

Best of all, there is no end in sight as more and more people are clamoring for access and African businesses are taking advantage of the Internet to reach new customers and clientele.

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Just The Basics

When looking at the basic numbers, Africa has a total 2015 penetration of 28.6 percent, according to the Internet World Stats, and contains a Internet participation of only 9.8 percent.

At first glance, this would appear to suggest that the reach of the Internet has not been successful in making itself known on the African continent. Once again, the basics do not point to the reality of the Internet in Africa.

OAfrica, a web organization dedicated to providing statistics and data on Africa, illustrates how the basic number are not the whole story.

According to OAfrica, who has sourced the statistics of all the major Internet organizations and authorities, mobile penetration is up to 70 percent.

Reflecting, that the 28 percent penetration is primarily public access. However, even the mobile numbers fail to account for the entire coverage of the Internet in Africa.

Population

To gain more insight into the growth of the Internet in Africa and how it relates to the growth in African businesses, the total sum of all the numbers have to be combined.

As of 2015, the population of Africa numbered slightly above 1,158,355,663, representing 16 percent of the total global population.

Thus, when one considers that the access is gained primarily through public access sites such as Internet cafes, a 28 percent penetration is reasonable and this penetration number is growing.

Not only are more Internet public access terminals coming on line in the coming years but the mobile penetration of 70 percent is further expanding the growth of the Internet on a grand scale.

However, mobile penetration is not counted as Internet penetration and therefore the discrepancies of the numbers.

Growth Driving Growth

Even without knowing the whole story, the fact on the ground in Africa is that, with the possible exception of some of the more war torn nations, Internet access is proceeding apace.

In fact, it has grown to the point of becoming an economic engine in some situations. Two examples of this include MeQasa and Property Maputo.

Both sites offer property listings, and just looking at the sites illustrates the ongoing real effect growth that is taking place in Africa.

However, business sites in African countries are not limited to real estate. Another example of a online business in Africa that is taking advantage of the growth in users is Kupatana.

This site is for the buying and selling of vehicles of all different types and models, from large trucks to common family cars.

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Growth Set to Continue

Perhaps the best news for the growth of the Internet in Africa, is that this growth is projected to continue. In fact, according to a recent 2015 article on TechCentral, Africa outpaced the rest of the world in Internet growth.

While it is true that bandwidth capacity is still lacking compared to other countries, the same TechCentral article explained that capacity growth worldwide has slowed.

However, the level of access is increasing, even if the current bandwidth is not expanding at the same rate.

What will help accelerate the growth for both access and capacity is that as countries realize the benefit of increased capacity and access, more and more countries will bring the regulations in place to promote this growth.

This will create an increasingly lucrative position for African-based Internet businesses or African businesses with a significant web presence.

Future Benefits For All

Africa represents a golden opportunity for a wide range of companies and businesses, not just African-based.

As access grows, so will the demand for more and more services and this will require expanded capacity and thus there are opportunities for infrastructure suppliers, equipment suppliers and service providers.

Not to mention digital content providers, digital services, increased banking and financial services and more. In fact, one could easily compare the growth potential in Africa to the overall Internet explosion of the early nineties.

As more stability is gained in Africa the more the potential for expansion grows with it. With greater access comes a higher profit potential for all types of businesses and the opportunity to reach beyond the shores of Africa to other potential markets.

Even outside the numbers, a quick glance at the metrics clearly show that Africa is ripe for internal expansion of the Internet and related services both real and digital.

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What is required now is better regulation, the elimination of some tariffs and fees that are slowing capacity expansion.

This will come as a matter of consequence as more governments and authorities realize the benefits of a wider Internet.

While issues with authoritative regimes will remain, the expansion of the mobile market, combined with more African tailored businesses will continue to be an economic driver for many and will eventually become an economic engine for the entire continent.

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