Infrastructure development — Is Africa ready for change?

Private sector efforts are outnumbering government led activities towards infrastructure development amidst tough economic headwinds in target areas across the continent.

The infrastructure gap in Africa is largely reflective of the state of the various industry segments across the continent. From basic internet access and affordability, to financial inclusion for millions of unbanked across the continent, to providing sustainable power generation and distribution models for the urban and rural regions, to upgrading obsolete and inadequate physical infrastructure; the infrastructure challenge is a consistent index of much needed development across the continent.

Using the communications sector in West Africa as a reference point, it appears that Africa is underserved. Each segment of the communications value chain struggles with infrastructure deficiencies, and there are critical resources needed to close these gaps — ranging from regulatory support for passive and active infrastructure sharing, public infrastructure funding and subsidies for infrastructure development, public and private sector investment in access and distribution infrastructure, provision of security (including physical security) for critical infrastructure, and many others.

While it does appear that the gaps far outweigh the commitment to fill the gaps, with major private investments in communications technology infrastructure (such as Main One Cable Company’s privately owned international submarine cable system and its Tier III Data Center) providing international standard connectivity, colocation and cloud services, Africa’s private sector is showing its commitment to bridging infrastructure gaps across the continent.

These private sector efforts are often many steps ahead of the national government’s efforts, and in defiance of the tough financial and political climates across the continent. The ubiquitous deficiencies in all segments of African life provide abundant opportunities for investment and the continent is ready, waiting and expectant of coming change.

With two out of the three largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa entering into recession in the last year, and slower growth generally across the region, the continent requires major investments in infrastructure to drive growth in diversified sectors of the economy. The question ceases to be “if Africa is ready for change”, rather “can Africa really afford not to embrace change”?

About the Author

Kasope Akindele is a legal and regulatory professional with over a decade of relevant experience in the law, regulation and policy of telecommunications and technology. His primary focus areas covers legal and policy issues of connectivity, colocation and cloud services, with interests in Information Technology Law, Internet Governance, Mobile and Electronic Commerce, Data Protection and Privacy and Competition Law. He currently heads the Legal & Regulatory team of MainOne.

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