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Leapfrogging is progress - the African way

Jumping like a frog, or "leapfrogging", is the name given to the leaps in development that some regions or countries have made and others simply skip over. Africa specialises in this discipline.

Take mobile telephony, for example: instead of first expanding fixed-line telephony, many African countries have invested directly in the development of mobile networks. This has significantly improved communication options and reduced dependence on expensive and difficult to maintain fixed network infrastructure.

Take banking, for example: mobile payment services such as M-Pesa have enabled people to send and receive money and pay bills without ever having access to brick-and-mortar banks or traditional banking services. This has greatly improved financial inclusion.

Power supply: In many rural areas where there is no stable electricity supply, renewable energies such as solar energy are used directly to provide electricity instead of building expensive and difficult to maintain power grids.

Leapfrogging therefore enables African countries to make faster progress and utilise modern technologies more efficiently, which ultimately contributes positively to economic and social development.

Smartphones also offer people in Africa opportunities for a better life

The Internet plays a decisive role in the development of the African economy and society (key words: education, healthcare). Mobile phones are Africa's development engine, helping to bridge long distances and poor roads. Only 0.4 per cent of the African population use fixed broadband services, the vast majority rely on mobile broadband. Around two thirds of the 1.2 billion people use mobile phones.

However, like the electricity supply - despite significant progress in recent years - access to the internet is also a bottleneck, as it is also dependent on a functioning infrastructure.

Mobile phone masts are powered by electricity. Many masts that are set up in remote locations or where a permanent supply from the power grid cannot be guaranteed are powered by diesel generators. This is not only very harmful to the environment, but also extremely costly, as the generators have to be refuelled and maintained on a weekly basis. Access is often difficult or even impossible - after heavy rainfall, for example.

It therefore makes sense to switch to solar energy. Here, too, the supply is more reliable, cheaper and, of course, more environmentally friendly. The conversion of existing masts and new investments in grid expansion are partly subsidised by the European Investment Bank (EIB). This is an exciting market for EWIA, in which we have already completed over 60 projects as part of a joint venture.

EWIA is responsible for the so-called last mile, connecting users to the global network and providing access to the data highway - in which tech companies such as Google and Facebook parent company Meta are currently investing. Google has earmarked USD 1 billion in 2022 to drive Africa's digital transformation with fibre optic cables. The chapter on copper cables is being skipped - leapfrogged.

You can find more information about the massive expansion of submarine fibre optic cables and 4G for Africa in a recent article by Deutsche Welle.


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