THE Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly transforming the way we live and work, and Africa is no exception.
The IDC is forecasting a 10,6% growth rate in IoT spending worldwide this year, and this is a clear indication that IoT is becoming an increasingly important area for investment and innovation across the globe.
The question is, is Africa ready to capitalise on this emerging trajectory? The short answer is yes.
A growing middle class, a youthful population, a largely untapped frontier with immense economic growth potential, Africa is pivoting for growth.
Most countries on the continent are already making significant investments in IoT infrastructure and adoption of its use in processes such as healthcare, communications and general management of businesses.
According to a report by GSMA, the number of IoT connections in Africa is expected to triple to 636 million by 2025, driven by increased adoption of connected devices in both consumer and industrial settings.
So, which African countries are most likely to benefit from this growth? South Africa is often cited as a leader in IoT adoption, with a well-developed technology sector and a number of established IoT applications in areas like smart cities, agriculture, and healthcare.
Other countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt are also emerging as key players in the African IoT market, thanks to their large and growing populations, increasing urbanisation, and strong mobile networks.
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Of course, not all African countries are equally well positioned to take advantage of the IoT revolution.
Many still lack the infrastructure and connectivity needed to support IoT applications, and there is a significant digital divide between urban and rural areas.
However, with the right investments and policies, there is no reason why other African countries cannot catch up and benefit from the IoT boom.
So, what does it take for African countries to move with the trends? First and foremost, it requires investment in infrastructure and connectivity.
This means expanding access to high-speed internet and developing the necessary physical infrastructure to support IoT devices.
It also means investing in skills development and education to ensure that there are enough trained professionals to design, build, and maintain IoT systems.
In addition, African countries need to create an enabling regulatory environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship in the IoT sector.
This means developing policies that promote competition, protect intellectual property, and encourage investment in IoT start-ups and small businesses.
Starlink, a satellite internet service provider owned by SpaceX, has been expanding its operations in Africa by launching its beta service in several countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique with a bunch of other countries expected to join the train in the 4th Quarter this year.
This move is significant for these countries as it will provide internet connectivity to remote and underserved areas, which is essential for the adoption and growth of IoT applications.
With reliable and high-speed internet connectivity, businesses and individuals in these countries will be able to leverage IoT technologies to improve their operations, increase efficiencies, and drive economic growth.
Furthermore, the partnership with Starlink will encourage more investment in infrastructure and connectivity, creating an enabling environment for the growth of the IoT sector in Africa.
Several telecom service providers across Africa, such as MTN, Vodacom, and Safaricom, Econet Wireless are making significant investments in 5G technology.
MTN, for instance, has already launched 5G services in South Africa, while Vodacom has launched 5G services in several African countries, including Lesotho and South Africa.
Safaricom, Kenya's largest telecoms operator, has also announced plans to launch 5G services in the near future.
Econet, one of Zimbabwe's largest telecom service providers, has also begun rolling out 5G technology in the country.
This move is significant for Zimbabwe as it will provide faster and more reliable internet connectivity, which is essential for the growth and adoption of IoT technologies.
The move towards 5G technology is significant for the adoption and growth of IoT applications in Africa. 5G technology offers faster speeds, lower latency, and higher capacity, making it ideal for supporting the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices.
With 5G networks, businesses and individuals across Africa will be able to leverage IoT technologies to improve their operations, increase efficiencies, and drive economic growth.
For instance, farmers can use IoT sensors to monitor crop growth and soil moisture levels, while healthcare providers can use IoT devices to monitor patient health remotely.
In addition, the deployment of 5G networks will also create new opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, as start-ups and small businesses develop new IoT applications and services to meet the needs of African consumers and businesses.
Overall, the move towards 5G technology is a positive development for the IoT sector in Africa, and it will play a critical role in driving the growth and adoption of IoT technologies across the continent.
In conclusion, Africa is ready to join the IoT revolution, and the continent is poised to benefit greatly from the growth of this sector.
African countries are already making significant investments in IoT infrastructure and applications, and the number of IoT connections in Africa is expected to triple by 2025.
While there are still challenges to overcome, such as the digital divide and the need for investment in infrastructure and connectivity, the expansion of satellite internet services and the deployment of 5G networks are positive developments that will create an enabling environment for the growth of the IoT sector in Africa.
With the right investments, policies, and skills development, African countries can leverage IoT technologies to improve their operations, increase efficiencies, and drive economic growth.
The future of IoT in Africa is bright, and it is an exciting time for innovation and entrepreneurship in the continent.
- Gwenzi is a financial analyst and MD of Equity Axis, a financial media firm offering business intelligence, economic and equity research. —[email protected]