Africa’s mobile revolution is generating impact, says Swype global chief

Africa’s mobile revolution has generated tremendous impact, which has led to increased digital access for consumers, Peter Atorough, founder of Swype Global Ltd and assistant professor at The Robert Gordon University, Scotland has said.

The impact, according to Atorough would translate to socioeconomic development in different countries of the continent once interested young Africans invest their time, energy and thoughts into mobile technologies.

Speaking with business a.m., he said the most important thing for the African technological revolution is for the continent’s teeming young talents to be motivated and given access to coding information and startup internships.

He said the good news is that young professionals in Africa are adapting to these developments as rapidly as they are happening, while the better news is that Africa has the lowest median age globally and a fastest growing population.

“This is beneficial because youth are more likely to adapt to radical digital growth. Again, businesses see opportunity in population. As we have seen with China and India, this will lead to an overall better quality of life and quantity of career options for the future of Africa,” he pointed out

Citing an estimate by GSMA, which indicates that mobile broadband connections would jump from 33 percent in 2016 to 60 percent in 2020, Atorough said relative increases in infrastructural investment to support the growth would increase inclusion in an unprecedented way.

He said one way that the growth in access through digital mobile can be made to impact even more on the continent’s economic development is to encourage intensive development of home-grown or home-focused assets; more applications and software that is developed with a specific understanding of Africa’s social, economic and cultural realities.

However, Atorough maintained that smartphone technology is rapidly increasing progress and infrastructure for a continent that desperately needs it, adding that the resulting development, specifically with smartphone technology and access, is bringing waves of opportunity for people in Africa

He said as the GSMA detailed in its 2017 Mobile Economy Report, the mobile market in sub-Saharan Africa is growing faster than any other region of the world.

“In fact, its growth is increasing at numbers 50 percent higher than the global average. This is due to the increasingly affordable price of smartphones, which dropped from an average price of $230 to $160 as far back as in 2015 alone.”

He said although it is still difficult for many to afford the latest and greatest, as Asian companies such as Tecno and Gionee continue to make products specifically for the budget markets of Africa.

Furthermore, he said the millions of recycled phones people leave behind when they upgrade are managing to find a market in Africa as the effect of this is having on digital technological offerings, especially e-commerce, is truly revolutionary.

On GSMA prediction that Africa will continue to lead mobile development for the next five years, Atorough said this is critical for the wellbeing of all persons in Africa since mobile technology now leads to significant social and economic development in any given region and in many industry sectors.

“Mobile technology is now the most important industry for delivering greater “inclusion” he said.

He said technology-driven inclusion contributes significantly to economic growth and jobs.

“For example, smartphones are now giving people in Africa access (inclusion) to mobile banking. This has major ramifications for business opportunities in Africa where only 6 percent of the population has hitherto had access to brick and mortar bank services,” he stated, adding that consumers and businesses in Africa not only have better access to funds, they also have micro financing opportunities that would never have existed otherwise.

He said new payment facilitators such as Paystack and DPO are examples of fintechs tapping into the opportunity presented by digital to provide smooth transaction handling for online commerce.

However, he argued that it is ironic that Africa’s lack of physical infrastructure has actually led to the propagation and ubiquity of digital mobile technology in the continent.

Rather he claimed that the simple fact that mobile innovation is much cheaper and flexible to attain than other forms of wealth creation infrastructure at this point in time is increasing the incentive to take advantage of technology.

“Almost 35 percent of people in Africa do not have access to paved roads, Atorough said, arguing that the more people businesses service, the more return they can get on their investment. Hence, higher populations typically lead to higher investment from outside forces, which spur development.

“India and China just went through similar situations in their own ways,” he said.

He noted that until recently, the costs of research and development that came in tandem with innovation meant that only the wealthiest nations and companies could significantly participate in such ventures, adding that the privilege of mobile technology and micro- financing is reaching lower and lower through the ranks of society.

According to Atorough, African account for 5 of the 10 nations in the world with the most startups (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa) because their participation in technological advances has made them attractive destinations for transplants, which pours even more attention and development into the revolution.

“Together, these nations accounted for almost 60 percent of foreign direct investment in 2016,” noting that at the forefront of this revolution is mobile app development, mobile banking and micro-financing  which are complete game changers when it comes to the little squares contained on a smartphone while other apps are solving long-standing problems in Africa.

“For example, a startup in Ghana has created an app that records land titles, records that until this point have been frequently fabricated and distrusted. This prevented locals from building upon their land. With the advent of this app, they are even able to borrow against their registered title, which creates funding for them in an easy way that was previously impossible.

“Similarly, another start-up, this time a UK based company owned by a diaspora from Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroun has created a digital based platform tagged SWYPATUNE which is set to be a game changer in the way talent is uncovered and propagated in Africa.”

According to Atorough, unique mobile subscribers will jump from 420 million to 535 million in between 2016 and 2020. This growth in subscribers will lead to a growth in interest, new markets and unprecedented opportunities for marketing and advertising, he said.

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