How the growth of free Wi-Fi is transforming life in Africa

In Africa, a new ICT trend is curved towards providing citizens with free Wi-Fi in order to boost economic activity and education, in line with McKinsey’s projection that if internet penetration grows in the same way as that of mobile phones on the continent, it could contribute as much as 10 per cent – $300 billion – of the continent’s total GDP by 2025.

The provision of free Wi-Fi is becoming a continent-wide trend. In Kenya, the county of Nakuru is offering residents free access through a partnership between the State House Digital Team and the county government, at the reported cost of US$2 million.

Rwanda’s Smart Kigali initiative provides designated free Wi-Fi hotspots around the capital. The Murtala Muhammad Airport Two (MMA2) in Lagos provides free access for passengers through a public-private partnership, while Nigerian operator Visafone has launched a free service for its customers in stores across the country.

However, South Africa is way ahead of the rest of providing free access to citizens, with both the public and private sectors assisting in rollouts across the country. Free hotspots are so widespread that a website has been set up to display all the free hotspots in the country.

Connectivity means citizens have access to information, knowledge to innovate, do business differently etc but ultimately, build a knowledge-based and socially connected community – which certainly has positive socio-economic benefits. In fact, according to the World Bank* for high-income countries, a 10-percentage-point rise in broadband penetration adds a 1.21 percentage point rise in economic growth – an added 1.38 percentage points for low- and middle-income countries.

Providing infrastructure and connectivity allows businesses to gain a footing and start to thrive and as the opportunities grow – so too does the innovation.

The more businesses thrive and innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurs, the more people or communities are able to connect, do business or receive necessary help or assistance. In turn, the more development and upliftment takes place. The more this happens, the more quality of life is increased – and so the cycle repeats for generations to come.


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