February 03, 2022

Faster connectivity leads to faster economic growth

By Tonny Tugee, Managing Director at SEACOM East and North East Africa

Kenya's nickname of "Silicon Savannah" is apt given the country's thriving ICT sector, which has risen by an average of 10.8% per year since 2016 and is home to some of Africa's most innovative start-up sectors. When you combine this thriving technology hub with our high overall internet penetration (about 85.2% of the population) and the recent acceleration of digital adoption, you have a country that is poised for the global digital economy.

While we have made significant progress toward digital transformation, there is still work to be done to improve and expand connectivity, which is the bedrock of the digital economy. Casey Torgusson, a Senior Digital Specialist at the World Bank and a contributor to the Kenya Economic Update: Securing Future Growth report, put it best: “Building strong digital foundations will be critical to the country’s long-term success in harnessing the potential of the digital economy as a driver of its economic growth, job creation and service delivery while ensuring that no one is left behind.”

Quality, affordability and localisation of the internet

In Kenya, we are now prioritising quantity above quality, with a large number of residents accessing the internet on a daily basis but only a small percentage enjoying high-quality connectivity. Penetration is vital, but it is the speed, reliability and capacity of these connections that have the most influence on individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole. Strong, stable connections and enough capacity in a network stimulate more interactions, which boosts productivity and performance over time.

Affordability and localisation are two key factors to consider. The Internet Society recently released a report that highlights the relevance of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and their supporting infrastructure in the development of long-term internet ecosystems. The research explains how Kenya used IXPs to localise Internet traffic from 30% in 2012 to 70% in 2019, considerably lowering the expenses of exchanging local and international traffic.

To build Kenya's internet ecosystem, local content developers, the government, ISPs and other stakeholders must continue to collaborate to localise content and minimise the cost of access.

Economic growth and connectivity

The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that a reliable internet connection is a powerful facilitator for all communities and economies. Connectivity played (and continues to play) a crucial role in our world's resilience, from improved education through digital learning to agile entrepreneurs and companies boldly inventing creative business models and unique employment prospects for thousands who had lost their jobs.

The far-reaching benefit of connectivity ultimately comes down to its core purpose: to connect one entity to another. Information sharing is a source of potential value that can result in improved connections, increased productivity and new economic prospects - whether it's connecting individuals, businesses, networks, cities, or countries.

EdTech start-ups in the educational field provide unique digital learning platforms to educate and upskill both children and adults. Connectivity brings almost limitless opportunities for productivity, new inventions and employment development from a business standpoint. Integration of organisations, cities and countries with broader markets is another key business benefit of connectivity, leading to reduced pricing and economies of scale, expanded customer options, factor mobility and higher specialisation.

Internet connectivity also helps to bridge the economic barrier between urban and rural communities in developing countries. According to the World Bank, with every 10% rise in broadband coverage, low- and middle-income economies develop by 1.38%.

Progressive policies and digital investment are essential

We need to start with solid digital foundations if Kenya is to unlock its promising digital potential. Forward-thinking policies, such as legislation and regulation, can help improve internet accessibility. Kenya's current policies must be reviewed and altered in order to facilitate rapid telecommunications expansion, particularly in underserved areas.

Every Kenyan citizen, regardless of where they live or their background, deserves high-quality, high-speed and reliable connectivity to actively participate in and reap the benefits of the digital economy. To make this fundamental need a reality – and truly revolutionise Kenya's economy – both public and private sector investment in digital infrastructure is required. For more information or to get a quote for our connectivity solutions, email us at marketing@seacom.com or leave us a message.

SEACOM owns Africa’s largest network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including fibre optic networks and subsea cables. We offer a wide range of industry-leading scalable ICT solutions for large companies that operate throughout the region.

SEACOM is privately owned - making it adaptable to the needs of the client. We are the preferred ICT and internet connectivity supplier for African enterprises. We can guarantee fast, reliable and secure internet and networking services at affordable prices.

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