Digital inequality is a major threat to Africa’s economic future

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By Sean Riley, CEO of Ad Dynamo by Aleph

It is no secret that Africa suffers from incredibly high economic inequality, with South Africa taking the first place at the World level. In terms of wealth inequality, seven out of ten of the most unequal countries in the world are located in Africa. In addition, Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, Country Director of the World Bank for Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa points out that although many African countries “undertake some of the most redistributive spending in the world, particularly in the areas of education and health, inequalities remain extremely high”. This suggests that for the continent’s population to prosper economically in the future, they must also tackle digital inequalities.

Sean Riley, CEO of Ad Dynamo

Although many articles have been written about the continent’s ability to ‘leapfrog’ stages of economic development, for example through cellular technology, this is not universally true. Even as cities in some of Africa’s biggest markets embrace 5G, access remains a major hurdle for many.

If Africa is to reach its full potential and secure the economic future that so many believe it is capable of, it is imperative to tackle digital inequalities immediately.

Promising growth, but still room for improvement

There is, however, promising growth, particularly with regard to Internet access. According to Statista, Nigeria is about to add 35 million new users by 2026. In Ghana, World Bank figures show that 58% of the population is now online, with the number of new internet users also increasing by 6% between 2020 and 2021.

Yet there is still plenty of room for further growth. Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, more than 800 million people are not yet connected to mobile internet. A relatively small proportion of these people (270 million) are not connected because they lack the required coverage. However, of most concern are the 520 million people in the region who could theoretically access mobile internet, but still don’t. It comes down to a number of interconnected reasons including cost, lack of skills, education, age, and location.

As connectivity becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, these numbers should decline organically, bringing some economic benefits on their own, but that alone will not be enough to ensure that Africa reaches its full potential.

After all, 50% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is already digitized, a percentage that is only expected to increase in the coming years. However, unless the right skills are developed to complement growing connectivity and enable the continent to compete effectively on the global digital stage, Africa risks becoming a net consumer in this economy, as organizations and entrepreneurs who belong the remaining 50% will benefit.

Large-scale skills development is needed

For Africa to truly reach its digital economic potential, it must also address the unequal distribution of digital skills on the continent. This is true both for those entering the job market and for those seeking to become entrepreneurs, for whom it is important to remember that a wide range of skills will be increasingly required. Also, those who can develop software or build and repair digital infrastructure will of course remain in demand, but those who can effectively market businesses to growing online consumers will also be of great importance. According to a study by the International Finance Corporation, 230 million jobs across the continent will actually require some level of digital skills by 2030. This number includes HR, marketing, sales and operations functions.

New online consumers are a lucrative target audience for businesses around the world. As such, they are widely targeted via major social platforms including Twitter, Snapchat and Spotify. Thus, it is also imperative for businesses across Africa to understand how to effectively reach their audience organically and through platform advertisements. This is something that we at Ad Dynamo and the wider Aleph Group fundamentally understand, which is why we want to be part of the solution. That’s why we recently launched our Digital Advertising Expert educational program in Nigeria and Ghana. The free online program aims to educate, certify and connect thousands of people across Africa with the digital skills needed to succeed in a rapidly digitalizing economy.

Although some people in these markets have the resources to learn these skills on their own, we believe it is essential to close the gap and reduce inequality as much as possible.

It is time

Thus, it is time to truly close the gap and address the obvious gaps on the African continent, so that we can secure its digital future. Fortunately, more and more prospects are opening up to Africans, and with the help of solutions such as those offered by Digital Ad Expert, the opportunity to discover the world of digital marketing, and the potential it holds for you. , or your company is incomparable.

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