The development of the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) has gradually transformed into a powerplay of an increasing number of stakeholders. The Association of Progressive Communications (APC) has published an analysis of the stakeholders, their power and interest positions and sheds renewed clarity in the complex EASSy discussion.
This review was writen for the World Dialogue on Regulation
With the rapidly increasing penetration of mobile phones in the developing world, new mobile-enabled services are being explored. One of the services that is expected to have an important social and economical impact is mobile-banking. Mobile-enabled financial services (m-banking) are one of the newest approaches to the provision of financial services through ICT. It involves the use of a mobile phone or another mobile device to undertake financial transactions linked to a client’s account. A mobile network offers a high technology platform onto which these new services can be provided at low cost by the network provider. M-banking services which use channels like sms can be carried at a cost of less than US $1c per message. The low cost of using existing infrastructure makes such channels more amenable to use by low income customers.
In spite of the high possible impact of m-banking services, the report Mobile Banking: Knowledge map and Possible donor support strategies notes that donors have given little support to explore its potential and develop solutions. However, according to the authors, there is sufficient theoretical evidence that m-banking will have an impact on the people that do not have access to banking services at the moment. This conclusion is based on two reports: The Enabling Environment for Mobile Banking in Africa and Micro-Payment Systems and their application to mobile networks by InfoDev.
Alex Weir is a Zimbabwe-based software designer who has developed several sms-based systems. Over the past period he tried to draw attention to the possibilities of m-banking on the African continent and has proposed a cashless sms-based payment system. In his concept paper Low-cost highly-secure electronic banking for the 3rd world - SPS - SMS Payment SystemWeir explains the workings of such a system. With him I look at the why m-banking has not been adopted on a wide scale in Africa.
VvR: What are the advantages of m-banking for a nation and for Africa?
VvR: What are in your opinion the most important hindrances for the implementation of m-banking in Africa?
VvR: What is the key for success for m-banking?
VvR: What regions are most likely to adopt m-banking first?
VvR: From a technical perspective, what are the challenges?
VvR: What role do the regulators (ICT and financial sector) have to play?
VvR: What do you expect from the donors and what is it that they should not do?
The report explores the impact of ICT on private sector development, and how ICT can contribute to a vibrant SME sector and economic growth in the context of developing economies. The countries covered included Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Research ICT Africa! (RIA!) network seeks to build an African knowledge base in support of ICT policy and regulatory design processes, and to monitor and review policy and regulatory developments on the continent. The establishment of the network originates from the growing demand for the data and analysis necessary for an appropriate but visionary policy required to catapult the continent into the information age. The reports to develop an African e-Index provide an answer to this demand.
The report that was presented in the last quarter of 2006, Towards an African e-Index: SME e-Access and Usage Across 14 African countries, explores the e-access and usage of ICT in the domain of the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.
The SME sector has an important role to play in the present and future economic development, poverty reduction and employment creation in developing economies. The report notes that the SME sector is the sector in which most of the world's poor people work. SME sector growth largely exceeds the average economic growth of national economies in many countries and contributes significantly to employment creation. At the same time, little is known about the impact of ICT on the SME-sector.
The literature to date has failed to create a tight link between the use of ICT and issues such as profitability and labour productivity. This survey aims to provide solid empirical evidence of the link between ICTs and business performance based on firm-level evidence. It is interesting that the survey also tries to include informal businesses, that form the core of the small businesses in Africa.
The report is structured as follows: the first chapter introduces the methodology that was used to achieve the objectives of the study, followed by two chapters providing a brief background of the SME sector and the ICT infrastructure in the 14 countries that participated in the survey. The fifth chapter focuses on ICT access and usage. Chapter Six looks at the impact that the usage of ICT has on the profitability and efficiency of SMEs. Chapter Seven summarises the main conclusions and policy recommendations arising from this analysis.
In 140 pages and some appendices, the report certainly provides new and interesting data on the use of ICT in the SME sector in the 14 countries that were surveyed in Africa (Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). With regard to the impact of ICT the report draws the following main conclusions:
In line with the last point, the report urges for the development of business applications based on the mobile platform. These provide relatively low-cost solutions with a potentially high penetration. Essential, however, is that a payment mechanism is developed. See also WDR's resource on this issue.
Regulation is considered to be the key issue to increase accessibility and affordability of ICT for the SME-sector. It is critical that governments accept that ICT costs can be reduced by establishing a regulatory environment that facilitates competition in the ICT sector.
Although the report provides a wealth of empirical data for policy makers to support informed decision making, its findings are biased towards Anglophone Africa in South East and Central Africa. The findings may not apply to the Francophone countries located mainly in West and North Africa. We wait eagerly for the next chapter of the African e-Index but we hope that it will also include main Francophone players like Senegal, Mali, Algeria or the DRC.
Related report: Gillwald, A. (Ed.), 2005. Towards and African e-Index: Household and Individual ICT Access and Usage in 10 African Countries.
This article has also been published at the website of the World Dialogue on Regulation (WDR) - www.regulateonline.org
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