- The GSM Association has announced plans to invest over US $50 billion in sub-Saharan African over the next five years to provide mobile coverage to more than 90% of the population.
The plan investment, revealed at the Connect Africa Summit held in Rwanda, targets the extension of GSM mobile networks, enhanced technologies [GPRS, EDGE and HSPA], provide a rich suite of mobile multi-media services, including internet access.
According to GSM estimates, the mobile industry has invested US $35 billion in sub-Saharan, providing more than 500 million people [67% of the population] with mobile coverage. The rise in investment and mobile coverage had been exacerbated by sub-Saharan government’s liberalisation of their telecommunication sectors at the turn of the millennium.
"This surge in investment by the mobile industry has changed the lives of millions of Africans, catalysing economic development and strengthening social ties," the Chief Executive Officer of GSM, Rob Conway, concurs.
The mobile operators planning to pump heavy investment in the expansion and enhancement of their networks in the continent include MTN, Orange, Vodacom and Zain subsidiary Celtel .
"We have the passion and dedication to provide Africa with a world class infrastructure," the MTN Group President and CEO Phuthuma Nhleko assures.
"We are proud to be a leading investor in Africa, bringing world-class services to our customers on the continent through our Celtel subsidiary," Dr. Saad Al Barrak, CEO of the Zain Group, says.
The CEO of Vodacom Group, Alan Knott-Craig, did not only express pride in investing in Africa, but will “continue to focus on our customers and the development of products and services that benefit them.”
GSMA is a global trade association representing more than 700 GSM mobile phone operators across 218 countries and territories of the world.
Today, there are over 150 million subscribers in sub-Saharan African, although 350 million people with mobile coverage are yet to be directly connected.
An increase of 10% points in mobile penetration can increase the annual growth rate of GDP by up to 1.2%, GSMA estimates.
GSMA urged sub-Saharan governments to thread the footsteps of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who believes that governments need to urgently remove the barriers they put in the path of entrepreneurs.
“Individuals and companies create wealth, not governments. This is not to say that the state should become invisible. But governments should see their roles as enablers of business, and not gatekeepers that control and hamper it," Kagame advises.
This will create conditions that maximise the benefit of the new investment, GMSA notes.
GSMA advises the World Radio Communication Conference taking place in Geneva to reserve the 750MHz to 862MHz spectrum band for mobile broadband services in Europe, Middle East and Africa. This spectrum band will enable radio waves to travel significant distances and provide better in-building signals, helping operators to achieve more extensive and cost-effective mobile broadband coverage, particularly in rural areas.
"The world's governments have an opportunity to narrow the digital divide between those who enjoy high-speed access to multimedia services today and the many people who can't yet be economically served by broadband networks," said Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer of the GSMA.
"It is important that the world's governments set aside this spectrum in a harmonised way, enabling handset makers to achieve economies of scale, thereby reducing the cost of access devices for consumers."
African governments have also been urged to address other barriers to mobile communication boost. These include high consumer taxes mobile specific taxes levied by governments of Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. They said the lowering or removing of these barriers would result to increases in wider economic activities, as more people will connect and use mobile services.
High license fees and other regulatory bottlenecks, such as international gateway monopolies, constrain the competitiveness of African business.
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