On this week’s episode of ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, the programme follows a delegation from Nigeria as they visit the U.S. to learn how to improve broadband capabilities.
As mobile technology has increased in Africa, internet access still remains low. Nigeria is looking to change this, as Lisa Coppe, Country Manager for West Africa at the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), outlines: “[Nigeria is working towards implementing its] national broadband plan on increasing connectivity and broadband access to 30 per cent by 2018.”
Nigeria has immense broadband capacity because of submarine fibre optic cables connected through Europe. However, only around ten per cent of that capacity is utilised. The programme meets CEO of MainOne, Funke Opeke, to understand some of the problems the country must overcome in order to fulfil its broadband potential: “The challenge is how do you deploy these technologies cost effectively enough to grow out the infrastructure to reach more members of society.”
However, Opeke believes that the advantages brought by broadband outweigh this, particularly for rural areas; she explains: “One has to consider the enablement that such access to the internet would bring in terms of education, job opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, access to social services, [and the] ability to secure our environment.”
While mobile technology has rapidly evolved on the continent, the same cannot be said for internet access. With more than 388 million users, internet penetration in Africa is between 20 to 30 per cent.
Opeke explains to the programme why groups like this delegation are looking to Western markets for solutions: “The U.S. is still the largest innovator and manufacturer of ICT technologies. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can take the best practices from other markets and deploy [those]… It actually gives us the opportunity to leap-frog.
To date, London-based company Liquid Telecom has rolled out more than 60,000 kilometres of fibre across Pan Africa.
CEO Nic Rudnick explains why doing business with African countries also presents a huge opportunity to the Western market: “Africa could be teaching the U.S. and Europe a thing or two about delivering cost-effective broadband networks not only to the cities but also into the rural areas and providing these communities with fast, cost-effective broadband networks.”