“You don’t understand what you have until it is taken away from you.” For me, this quote means a lot more since while relaxing with my family for the school holidays in the Eastern Cape last week, I lost my cellphone. And with it, my connection to text messages, emails, the internet, and social media.
While you and I have every technological tool possible at our disposal, and with it an unfettered access to information via our mobile devices and broadband internet, there are hundreds of millions of people on our continent that still do not have this access that we take for granted.
The United Nations has previously agreed that access to the internet is a basic human right, in very much the same was that access to food and health care is a human right.
In 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council “exploring key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the internet.”
De Buys Scott, head of infrastructure advisory, global infrastructure major projects at KPMG, notes that global population growth is putting pressure on infrastructure investment and development. To become globally competitive, Africa must catch up with its connectivity efforts. Communication and the ability to communicate quickly and at significant quality have become absolute non-negotiable, he writes.
However, too many people still struggle each day to gain access to basic services such as running water, sanitation, electricity, health care and education.
In the Eastern Cape last week, I witnessed again how young six-year-old girls collect water and firewood. And all of this was happening under the invisible ‘cloud’ of a 3G signal.
Digital media is an intensely powerful enabler. I have seen for myself how small businesses have been borne across the continent with little more than a dream, a free Yahoo! email address and access to the internet via their local internet café. And 10 years later, many of these once-upon-a-time small companies have grown exponentially, and now employ hundreds of people while they pass on their skills and their experience to the next generation.
We don’t have to look much further than the tourism sector in Africa. Without digital media, this industry’s growth would not have been so abundant. We also understand that tourism is the sector that can start to contribute economically the quickest, and globally employs the most number of people whereas in Africa this number still sits below the global average.
It is these success stories that inspire me to continue to empower businesses and brands in Africa – both small and big – to understand the true potential of this access to African and global markets via digital marketing and media.
A country such as Nigeria, in my opinion, is leading the adoption of digital media within their economy. Retail is thriving through e-commerce especially for bulk ‘white goods’ such as refrigerators where delivery on poor road infrastructure is a strong consumer USP for transacting online as oppose to offline. With a population of over 170 million, Nigeria should be a key element of any business’s Africa growth strategy.
The opportunity to start, build and expand businesses across Africa is here today. It is up to every citizen of this great continent to understand what this opportunity means to them.
If we do, we will see a world in which any six-year-old boy or girl who once upon a time collected fresh water and firewood can realistically dream of becoming a captain of industry or a head of state, just as a young herd-boy from Qunu who later became South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
Will Green is CEO of Apurimac Media. Follow him on Twitter @WJNGreen.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to email@example.com.