Digital development in Africa: 6 Industry CEOs seek partnership on new policies
SIX chief executive officers of Africa’s largest Mobile Network Operators attending the Mobile World Congress in Kigali, Rwanda (MWC Kigali 2023), have called for strong partnership between African leaders and policymakers on digital development to reimagine existing structures while developing targeted new policies that accelerate the positive and inclusive impacts of mobile technologies.
This is to help close the investment and usage gaps as it pertains presently.
Consequently, they have identified three major areas for consideration by political leaders on the continent for consideration.
First, they identified tax rationalisation for the mobile industry through the development of targeted fiscal policy reforms that support economic growth and digital development, deepening digital and financial inclusion aligned with national targets.
For instance, they cited the removal of tax on low-cost smartphones and sector-specific tax.
The CEOs also stressed the need for regulatory support to implement the recommendations of the UN Broadband Commission’s ‘21st Century Financing Models for Bridging Broadband Connectivity Gaps’ indicating that, that was needed to promote investment models for digital infrastructure which include all digital economy beneficiaries.
Thirdly, they called for climate action policies to improve access to renewable electricity for corporate buyers, since these are essential for the mobile industry to achieve their climate targets.
The CEOs of MTN Group, Ralph Mupita; Airtel Africa Group, Segun Ogunsanya; AXIAN Group, Hassanein Hiridjee; Ethio Telecommunications, Frehiwot Tamru; Orange Middle East and Africa, Jerome Henique and Vodacom Group, Shameel Joosub, made the call after they engaged with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the MWC host and Chair of the Smart Africa board, and the Rwanda Minister of Information and Communications and Innovation, Ms Paula Ingabire at the congress.
The CEOs have convened at MWC Kigali to consider the opportunities and challenges for deeper partnerships with African governments to drive digital inclusion and mobile infrastructure development across the continent.
“Together, we believe passionately in the power of mobile to act as a catalyst for economic and social inclusion across Africa.
The CEOs said, “Success is a team game. And further political support, across the continent, is essential to register meaningful progress.
This includes facilitating the right market structures and conditions to avoid unnecessary fragmentation and policies that support the investment environment needed for success.
Mobile industry commitment
The industry currently contributes $170bn (8.1%) to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) across the Sub-Saharan region and commits to spend another $75bn, which will yield an expected $210bn to Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP by 2030.
Additionally, this will result in an additional 200 million unique mobile subscribers, taking the total population coverage to nearly 700 million by 2030 that is, 50 per cent penetration as a percentage of population.
Against this background, the industry pledges to develop partnerships aligned with the country's priorities and their business objectives in the form of a social compact for creating shared value.
The CEOs further stated their commitment to collaborate with Africa’s nation-states’ transformational plans, placing added focus on four priority areas where governments, working in partnership with the mobile sector, have the opportunity to drive digital inclusion, economic growth and environmental transformation:
First, they mentioned driving inclusive connectivity through fiscal and other policy reforms.
“Reforming fiscal policy will improve affordability for consumers and incentivise investments by operators given that taxes and fees account for 30 per cent of industry revenues according to the GSMA Mobile Tax Policy and Digital Development report.
While this may not be the means to an end, we also acknowledge and commit to the need to create a healthy competitive environment through other policy reforms such as infrastructure sharing, and national roaming among others.”
The CEOs mentioned the closing of the investment gap for building broadband infrastructure as the second priority that needed consideration.
The World Bank projects that $100bn is required to achieve universal connectivity in Africa. The UN Broadband (BB) Commission in 2021, released the 21st Century Financing Models for Bridging Broadband Connectivity Gaps.