April 18, 2024

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Accelerating Africa’s digital future: Adopting an action-oriented mindset

By Fadi Pharaon, President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa

During the past decade, connectivity in Africa has made great strides. Over the past five years, the proportion of people covered by a mobile broadband network has more than doubled. The November 2022 Ericsson Mobility Report estimates that in 2028, monthly data traffic per smartphone in Sub-Saharan Africa will increase to 18 GB per month with mobile subscriptions in the region to top 9.2 billion.  

Digitalization in Africa is poised to transform the ecosystem, advance sustainable development and create opportunities for all by improving livelihoods, promoting financial inclusion and facilitating access to health, education and government services.

To embrace this mindset at Ericsson, we launched Ericsson #AfricaInMotion few years back and we stood for a promise and commitment towards accelerating Africa’s digital future.

Mobilizing technology leadership to serve Africa’s needs

Growing the availability of 4G networks is key to accelerate the digitalization in Africa. One of the most important enablers to accelerate 4G adoption is smartphone affordability. By having the right strategies to make 4G devices more affordable, combined with the right digital services, we will accelerate connectivity.

As a vendor, we also understood that we need to tailor make our innovation to Africa’s reality, and we embarked on a mission to come up with innovative radio technologies that can help African nations overcome the barriers to adoption. One of our milestones launches on this front was Radio 6626 that brings tangible OPEX and energy benefits by minimizing power consumption by up to 50% and reducing the weight on the tower. We have now deployed this radio in more than 20 countries in Africa, contributing to the growth of 4G availability and paving the way for 5G introduction.

In addition to addressing the challenges of coverage and penetration, rural areas in Africa also require innovative solutions to bridge the digital divide. Ericsson recognizes the importance of rural connectivity and has been actively developing solar-powered rural site solutions that require minimum civil works to extend network coverage and enhance connectivity in remote areas. This includes our suite of advanced radio technologies that bring significant benefits, including reduced energy consumption, lighter weight, smaller volume, faster installation times, and fewer cabling requirements.  

Empowering local talents and bridging the digital divide

One of the initiatives we launched in-light of our efforts to supporting young talents is our “Ericsson Graduates Program”. This program provides fresh graduates with the opportunity to participate in on-the-job, online, and classroom learning, similar to an internship. Upon completion of the program, successful candidates will have the chance to become full-time employees and join the Ericsson world.

When it comes to bridging the digital divide, our ‘Connect To Learn’ initiative, which leverages ICT technologies to provide equitable access to quality education in underserved regions, has reached to date over 400,000 students located across 36 countries globally. With a focus on digital connectivity for schools, girls in ICT, education in humanitarian contexts, and youth empowerment through digital skills, we are empowering African policymakers & regulators, teachers, students, and schools to deliver a quality 21st-century education, equipping Africa with essential digital skills for the future.

Another great example is also the GIGA initiative, a three-year global partnership with UNICEF that will help map school connectivity in 35 countries by the end of 2023.

Enabling financial inclusion

Another area to accelerate digitalization and reap the benefits towards prospering Africa’s people and society is enabling financial inclusion and Mobile Money here has emerged as a transformative force, capable of greatly impacting financial inclusion across the continent. Ericsson’s wallet platform, our solution for Fintech services, enables consumers to be part of the digital economy in an easy, secure and safe way. One use case of how consumers have been leveraging this innovative service is the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business model. This model makes products and services accessible to low-income consumers, allowing them to make incremental payments through mobile money. For example, they can use this model to acquire a solar household system that can power phone and radio charging, thereby tackling the electricity challenge. This has a significant social impact by enabling innovative models for energy, water and other services. Mobile solutions are becoming a tool to solve major challenges across the continent.

Inspiring action to accelerate digitalization through collaborations

With digitalization on the continent progressing rapidly, nations are working on setting regulatory frameworks in the ICT space that allow them to keep-up with the pace of digitalization. In this context, Ericsson works with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) on spectrum recommendations that support Africa’s transformation into a knowledge economy through the development of technologies that boost connectivity and innovation. Spectrum is the foundation for the telecoms industry, and we encourage regulators to continue making spectrum available on terms that are both affordable and relevant for optimal deployment of connectivity.

Another key collaboration that supports our mission to accelerate digitalization through collaborations is with our partnership with Smart Africa Digital Academy (SADA) to adopt the Ericsson Educate program to enhance the digital skill competencies of ICT ministries’, policymakers, and regulators’ top management in member countries of Smart Africa Alliance, drawing 100 participants from 19 countries.

A promising future

To summarize, we are proud partners of Africa’s Communication Service Providers (CSPs) enabling them with Ericsson’s innovative and advanced technologies that suit the Africa landscape, while expanding their footprint into previously underserved areas. In addition, engaging the ecosystem and keeping the dialogue with the public and private sector while embracing an action-oriented mindset is key to helping unlock Africa’s tremendous potential without leaving anyone behind, and ushering in a new era of prosperity.

Looking forward to continuing our #AfricaInMotion journey hand in hand with all our customers and partners.

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