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Africa: Internet Usage Rising Rapidly
September 21, 2015 (150921)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The ways in which disruptive technologies change the world are often
unpredictable, and how much the results are positive or negative can
be debated. But there is no doubt that they give scope for human
creativity to have greater impact, for both good and evil. Internet
growth, giving new opportunities for African
creativity, has already changed Africa significantly. And, notes
Russell Southwood of the leading industry newsletter Balancing Act
Africa, further changes are coming rapidly.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the lead article "The African
Internet Effect" from the latest issue of Balancing Act Africa, as
well as two short briefs from the same issue, one on South Africa
and the other on Uganda.
Also of interest, but not in a format that can easily be reproduced
here, are the latest estimates on internet penetration in Africa (as
of mid-2014) from Internet World Stats (available at
http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm). These estimates,
compiled from different sources, are admittedly approximate, as the
site admits. But they are the most recent comparable data easily
available on the web. [Official estimates from ITU, in a much less
user-friendly format, are available at
The site estimates that there were approximately 298 million
internet users in Africa as of June 30, 2014, equivalent to 16.5% of
the population, as compared to 45.2% of the population in the rest
of the world. A breakdown by country show that the countries with
the highest level of penetration were Madagascar (74.7%), Morocco
(61.3%), Seychelles (54.8%), Egypt (53.2%), South Africa (51.5%),
and Kenya (47.3%).
The countries with the largest numbers of internet users in Africa
were Nigeria (23.6% of the total in the continent), Egypt (15.5%),
South Africa (8.4%), Kenya (7.1%), and Madagascar (5.8%). No other
country makes up more than 5% of the continental total.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on information and communication
technology, visit http://www.africafocus.org/ictexp.php
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
The African Internet Effect – Everything it touches turns different
Balancing Act Africa
Issue no 795 18th September 2015
[Note: original article available at link includes many links to
other relevant material]
There's been a lot of individual pieces of news and a slowly
building awareness of the scale of Africa's Internet users but noone
has yet taken in the breadth of the momentum building up.
Russell Southwood tries to get grips with the pace and variety of
I ran a session on online content at Capacity 2015, the wholesale
bandwidth meet-point and conference in Dar es Salaam. I will be
charitable and say it was lightly attended but I don't take it
personally. Those doing the business of business are often focused
on the short-term in the form of next month or quarter's sales
Those selling wholesale bandwidth make most of their living from
corporates and fixed and mobile telcos. Since neither of the latter
are yet making a great hand of selling content and online services,
they are in the unfortunate position of being in the back seat of
the car, largely unable to influence the journey. But they have a
massive wholesale fibre inventory and every day that passes means it
has lost value, particularly those selling capacity from
international fibre pipes.
Consumer online content and services will be the next big bump in
growth for those selling wholesale bandwidth. But with notable
exceptions (see at the end of this story) they all seem remarkably
passive about making it happen.
The African Internet Effect is rippling out and affecting everything
it touches. The first shocks of this earthquake have been quite
gentle but its power will build for two reasons.
Firstly, the African "digital change" generation are 18-30 years
old. In the next five years as they get older, there will be a new
tranche of "digital native" Africans. They will themselves move into
positions of power and decision-making.
Secondly, in the more advanced African markets 50% of phone users
will have access to a smartphone or a smartphone-like feature phone.
In other markets, a significant number of users will have
smartphones. Argon Telecom will offer a US$40 smartphone next year
and all the talk is of when a US$30 smartphone will arrive.
There are two big clusters which will have an enormous impact over
the next five years: film and TV and music. Operators have enormous
problems implementing them but let's look at what's happened so far:
Film and TV: Online has reduced the barriers to market entry and
there are now over 100 online film and TV platforms. Not all of
these will survive but some will dig themselves significant niches
by focusing on local content. A couple of examples that have had
less airplay than others include Ghanaian film-maker Juliet Asante's
Mobilefliks and the soon-to-be launched Tango TV in Tanzania. Much
of the talk at Capacity 2015 was about the lack of local content:
don't get me started, local content is either already there or will
follow. Nigerian diaspora performer T Boy demonstrates what can be
done with a talent for comedy and You Tube. Safaricom has appointed
a broadcast content person to head up its BigBoxTV service and
Netflix will soon be in South Africa.
Music: As with VoD platforms, there are now over 100 online music
platforms jostling for attention, the larger of which include Simfy,
Spinlet and iROKING. Local contender in Tanzania Sune Mushendwa
spoke at Capacity 2015 and is one of the more interesting
operations. In our report on music platforms we calculated that
there were already 10 million users across the continent and that
these numbers were set for considerable growth. However, these
numbers are soft in that they are not always active users.
One of the biggest barriers to the expansion of these services is
payment. This is a combination of mobile operators' terms of trade,
the lack of clear, easy-to-use systems and consumers trust. But that
is not to say the numbers are not there:
e-Commerce: Both Jumia and its rival Konga in Nigeria each have 1
million customers. At the moment this is hybrid e-commerce: the
customer orders online and pays cash on the doorstep for what he or
she has ordered. But that will change….
Media: About the same number or more people read newspapers online
than they do the print versions. The qualitative research we did as
part of a larger study for the New Venture Fund revealed two key
things. When asked what had changed most about media in the last 5
years, those interviewed said there was more media and there was the
Internet. Increasingly they checked news throughout the day online.
Africa's online media ranges from the conventional but impressive
News24 to the new and much less conventional Battabox.
Radio: Radio is Africa's key medium because TV is not widely
accessible. Many mobile users already listen to an inbuilt radio on
their mobile phone. The next step? Streamed radio. South Africa's
Iono.fm has already got a million talk radio programme streams in
South Africa and will be expanding across Africa soon. Cyprien
Josson is a Nigerian in France whose day job is teaching but his
passion is Nollywood Radio which already has a significant audience
Livestreaming: With bandwidth Africa is now beginning to build
businesses from livestreaming something that would have been
unthinkable only a few years ago. Graham Wallington's Wild Earth
which streams animals in the wild has gone from strength to
strength. Eban Oliver's Skyroomlive which streams concerts live is
just starting out.
Publishing: Conventional wisdom says that Africans don't read books
but Worldreader's 125,000 active mobile readers offers tantalizing
evidence that things may be changing. Kenyan TV writer Ndinda Kioka
had her first short story published on an online site before
appearing in a print short story collection that led to funding that
will allow her to complete her first novel
Art: Nobody ever thinks of art when they talk about online but there
are now two online art galleries selling work made by Africans:
South African, Ex-Googler Julie Taylor's Guns and Rain and
Senegalese Valerie Konde's Pavilion 33
Games: GamersNights in Kampala is a group of multi-player computer
gamers who have been helped by Liquid Telecom to expand the reach of
their players' network across East Africa. Wherever I go in Africa,
there are small pockets of gamers, most of whom play offline with
pirated copies but might be persuaded at the right price by an
Advertising: The shift to digital advertising is well under way as
brands begin to realize the important of social media in general and
Facebook in particular. This shift has created new business for
everyone from the large digital agencies like Quirk, bought by JWT
or smaller, independent agencies like the one set up by Ugandan exradio
DJ Seanice Kacungira
I'm not arguing that's all's well in the African online world so
onwards and upwards. Significant problems need to be overcome but
this is the end of the beginning.
Even as the telecoms operators struggle to take on board what's
happening, a couple of bandwidth wholesalers have understood it.
Liquid Telecom that supported GamersNights in Kampala are mentioned
above. The launch of PCCW Global's ONTAPTV.com in South Africa is
mentioned in Internet news below. Others really should join the
One sales person from an international fibre company was joking with
me that he was suggesting to a customer that they would sell
bandwidth on the basis that they got a cut from the songs
downloaded. But he was serious about trying to make things happen
and more should try it.
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can be viewed here (http://tinyurl.com/pdz8uhq):
Essential reading for those interested in new start-ups and
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WeThinkCode democratises education in South Africa
WeThinkCode will train world-class software engineers in a peer-topeer
problem solving learning environment in a period of two years
Africa 2.0 is excited to announce that it has partnered with
"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of
tomorrow." This quote from American educator John Dewey, captures a
major issue facing South Africa. In a country with the legacy of a
two-system which excludes a major part of the population, how does
one narrow the gap and build an inclusive education environment
accessible to all?
Africa 2.0 is excited to announce that it has partnered with
WeThinkCode , an innovative peer-to-peer tech institution launching
in Johannesburg in 2016, dedicated to transforming technology
education in order to bridge the gap between undeveloped talent and
the desperate IT skills shortage in South Africa. In partnership
with Ecole 42 in France, WeThinkCode will train world-class software
engineers in a peer-to-peer problem solving learning environment in
a period of two years.
WeThinkCode aims to democratise education by removing barriers to
access and providing opportunity to all young South Africans. The
program is free and open to all talented and resilient candidates
aged 17 to 35; regardless of previous education, socio-economic
background or financial means. Student applications open on 1
October 2015 (http://www.borntocode.co.za).
WeThinkCode is a non-profit social enterprise, its partnerships with
South African corporates ensure a sustainable business model.
Corporate partners benefit from being able to identify and access
exceptional human capital and IT expertise.
#BornToCode: Tech Leader Challenge
The Top 100 tech leaders in South Africa are being challenged to see
if they are #BornToCode in the Tech Leader Challenge 2015. The aim
of the challenge is to raise awareness about the potential of South
African youth to become world-class programmers regardless of
previous education or socio-economic background.
The rapid evolution of the digital era has a profound impact on
business and society in Africa. The IT skills shortage, however,
hampers the economic growth and social transformation that could be
generated. South Africa currently has an estimated 200,000 vacancies
in the ICT sector, while 3.4 million youth between 18 and 29 are
unemployed. WeThinkCode aims to tap into this pool of untapped
talent to source and train the country's future tech leaders.
The inaugural #BornToCode event, taking place on Tuesday, 29
September 2015 will give tech leaders the chance to join the
conversation and demonstrate their coding talent. The country's
foremost tech champions will be challenged to take the student
aptitude test game and compete for the top 10 positions of the
#BornToCode Tech Leader board.
WeThinkCode calls on all business leaders who are passionate about
making a significant impact in education and believe in the
potential of developing the software engineering industry South
African to join its #BornToCode Tech Leader Challenge and sign up at
Tech leaders are required to donate a minimum of R25,600, which
covers a stipend to help students through their studies. All funds
raised will go toward opening the WeThinkCode campus in January
2016. More than 20 tech leaders have already signed up, including
Mamadou Toure, Founder of Africa 2.0, Stafford Masie, Founder of
thumbzup and Peter Alkema, CIO of FNB Business.
Uganda: Female Ugandan Students Have Created an App That Detects
A group of five female students from Makerere University in Uganda
have successfully created a test kit connected to a smartphone app
that is able to detect harmful vaginal bacteria that cause bacterial
vaginosis and other infections.
In a video posted to YouTube, the team known as Team Code Gurus
explain exactly how they created the app. The test kit, known as Her
Health BVKit, consists of hardware and a software application.
The hardware is the actual test kit that connects to the smartphone
app via Bluetooth. By placing a urine or vaginal discharge sample
onto the kit, PH values can be sent to the application. The app then
interprets whether the user has healthy or unhealthy amounts of
vaginal bacteria. If there are unhealthy levels of bacteria present,
the application recommends that the user seeks medical attention and
indicates where their nearest doctor or clinic is.
The team's programmer, Ndagire Esther explains that the team would
like to work with NGOs and other health facilities to supply rural
women with the kit:
"We plan on marketing our application through NGOs, clinics and
pharmacies. We hope the NGOs can help us reach rural areas where
women who don't have the opportunity to test their bacteria will be
able to use our application."
She goes on to explain that the idea is to make the hardware and
software to make it easy to use and widely available for women to
test themselves every month for harmful bacteria that could indicate
Source: News24 14 September 2015
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