LIVE FROM MWC21 AFRICA: Orange CEO Stephane Richard (pictured) cited the continued high cost of smartphones as a major barrier blocking many in sub-Saharan Africa accessing the internet, as he called for increased support to aid operators connecting the continent.
In the opening keynote, Richard noted sub-Saharan Africa had the largest coverage gap in the world, with a fifth of people living in areas without mobile data coverage.
But he explained despite this, it was the “usage gap” which remained the largest issue.
“One in two people living in areas covered by a mobile broadband network are not using mobile internet.”
“Investing in the coverage gap is the smallest part of the problem, device affordability remains one of the most significant barriers to internet connectivity in Africa. The average cost of an entry-level smartphone still exceeds 60 per cent of average monthly income making smartphones largely inaccessible for the majority of the population.”
Orange already launched a $30 smartphone aimed at helping to address this in partnership with Google, and Richard noted taking action at an “international level can dwindle the cost of devices while ensuring a sustainable investment framework for the data economy”.
Here, he added there were already examples of partnerships with other stakeholders in the digital economy to help increase connectivity and consumer demand.
Richard also pointed to a need for countries to ensure data sovereignty, and called for a “new deal” between authorities and all players in the digital economy to create a sustainable investment model.
“We need government support to maintain the level of investment and growth we also need to adapt to the challenges of the data economy. Strengthening trust and cybersecurity, preparing Africa’s digital sovereignty and paving the way to a better future.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back