By Diego Gutierrez
Digital technology is a critical part of the continent’s response to the ongoing upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Adapting to these continuing challenges will shape the continent’s digital trends further in the months ahead. Here are some of the developments we can expect in 2021:
More demand for mobile money
Africa is regarded as a pioneer in the global mobile money boom, with over 1 billion registered mobile money accounts on the continent. M-Pesa is Africa’s biggest payments platform: at the time of Vodacom Group’s interim financial results in November, the M-Pesa ecosystem was processing around US$20.5 billion a month in transactions across our International markets, including Safaricom. The pandemic has amplified the need for contactless transactions to reduce the risk of infection and security threats associated with bank card payments. Add to this mobile money’s contribution towards narrowing the financial inclusion gap and providing access to utility services and humanitarian aid, and we can expect to see even further growth in mobile money users on the continent in 2021.
Increase in IT infrastructure
As 2020 has shown, reliable IT infrastructure is a powerful tool in mitigating the impact of a global crisis. Of the 25 least-connected countries in the world, 21 are in Africa, and only a third of the African population has access to broadband connectivity. Addressing this need for improved infrastructure and services across the continent is a key agenda item for Vodacom. Through technological innovation, such as 5G expansion and leveraging existing network infrastructure reach, including fibre, microwave, LTE and SD-WAN, Vodacom is delivering more connectivity to more users, especially in rural areas. Increasing digital access opens opportunities for employment, innovation and inclusion; bridging the digital divide and changing lives for the better.
Cybercrime on the rise
At the end of 2020, it was reported that a business in Africa experiences a cyberattack on average 1,230 times per week, compared to the global average of 459 weekly business attacks. From Covid-related scams to vulnerabilities in remote working conditions, the rise in cyberattacks is linked to criminals taking advantage of the current circumstances. As the “new normal” rolls into another year, so too will cybercriminals look for new ways to exploit individuals and businesses.
Embracing cloud technology
Moving to the cloud is not new, but the pandemic has pushed organisations to rethink and fast-track their deployment strategies to this technology, which allows for improved and secure communication, remote operations, and scalability. In a recent survey of technology decision-makers in sub-Saharan Africa, 56% estimate that more than a quarter of their applications will have moved to the cloud by the end of 2021.
While the global pandemic that engulfs us has had devastating consequences on health and life, the resulting acceleration of digital transformation on our continent has been significant. In the long run, these developments will go a long way to better equip us all for the uncertainty of tomorrow.
(Diego Gutierrez is Vodacom Group’s Chief Officer of International Markets).