Stanley Kamanguya, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kenya’s ICT Authority, has emphasized that increased connectivity and access to digital infrastructure are poised to catalyze the growth of the digital economy across the African continent.

Despite the progress in connectivity witnessed across Africa, with 37 out of 38 countries with access to the sea being linked by one or more Fibre Optic Cables, significant challenges persist due to an existing infrastructure gap hindering widespread access.

Kamanguya highlighted the substantial advancements in connectivity facilitated by mobile devices, particularly in countries like Kenya, where the number of mobile devices surpasses 1.5 percent of the population, with ownership ranging between 70 and 80 million devices among a population of 55 million people. However, he underscored the disparity in internet penetration and broadband access, with a significant portion of the population in various countries still categorized as unserved or underserved.

Addressing this digital divide requires collaborative efforts between African governments and the private sector to foster interconnectivity and harmonize policies. Discussions are underway among East African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Somalia, to establish intra-country connectivity through infrastructure sharing initiatives.

In April of this year, Kenya will host the Connected Africa Summit 2024, aimed at convening African Heads of State, ICT Ministers, public and private sector representatives, academia, and other stakeholders to address key issues facing the continent’s ICT sector. The summit will focus on bridging policy, infrastructure, and investment gaps to narrow the digital divide in alignment with the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Efforts to enhance interconnectivity also aim to address the affordability of connectivity. By establishing mechanisms for sharing infrastructure and setting up data and interchange exchange points across Africa, the cost of data can be significantly reduced, making internet connectivity more accessible and affordable for the population.

Currently, Africa’s internet penetration stands at just over 36 percent, with approximately 473 million active internet users, of which 278 million access the internet via mobile phones. Despite these figures, over 300 million people reside 50 kilometers away from an active fibre optic connection, highlighting the substantial infrastructure gap prevalent across the continent.

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