Orange Middle East and Africa CEO Alimoune Ndiaye

We can't talk about connectivity in Africa without highlighting the challenge of digital inclusion. This is according to Orange Middle East and Africa CEO Alimoune Ndiaye.

Ndiaye was speaking on the second day at the AfricaTech Festival, a virtual event which began on the 9 November and ends today. He added that there were more than 350million Internet users in Africa in 2019, which was 20 times more users than in 2005. “However, inequalities between countries are still significant: Landlocked or highly unstable countries are limited in Internet access compared to the average,” he said.

He added that within countries, rural populations, women and those who had less education tended to be less addressed. “Orange wants to make the digital world available to all. This is our objective, and to that end, we have three point levels, which are connectivity, devices and services that make lives better.”

Investing in connectivity

In terms of connectivity, Orange invested €1billion a year in Africa, and they invested in capacity and Internet speed for their 125 million customers in 18 countries, Ndiaye said.

He added that data was Orange's fastest-growing source of revenue, and as a consequences, they spending hundreds of millions Euros to acquire 4G licenses, roll out these networks and  strengthen international connectivity. These big investments represent huge inflows of money for the relevant states and create  employment in the region.

Good quality devices

Ndiaye said with regard to devices, Orange's job is to make sure that users had the best quality network and the fastest data. “Still network available is not enough - 7 out of 10 Africans live in an area now covered by mobile broadband. Nonetheless, 520million of Africans remain unconnected.

Reasons include affordability, lower levels of literacy and digital skills,” he said. He added that the average cost of an entry-level smartphone in Africa still exceeds 60% of their average monthly income, and bringing that price down to $30 as they [Orange] have done is a strong move to make Internet available to everyone.

Essential services

Ndiaye noted that Orange also offers a wide range of services, from energy to education. After rolling out the network, bringing down the device prices, the last and important requirement for digital use is services. One of their most important services, which has 15million accounts is their mobile money service (Orange money platform), he said. Orange customers can now request instant loans from their phones with Orange Bank Africa, he said. “This has the potential to change the lives of small business owners for the better, leading to more business and ultimately more growth and more employment,” he said.

International money transfers with phones also help maintain remittances, which bring critical resources in many African countries, he said. “In these times of Covid-19, where it's necessary to distance ourselves, being able to manage our finances instantly and remotely can change lives for the better,” he said. 

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