Dr Alvaro Sobrinho is chairman at UK & Mauritius based Planet Earth Institute. He is devoted to his mission to empower the continent through investment in science, technology and advanced academic training.
Facebook’s move to monopolise the Internet may have numerous benefits for the populous African continent. Africa is second among the world’s continents in terms of its size and its population. That makes investment in it attractive in terms of the potential customer base that any enterprise would have.
Timely Business Investment
From a business standpoint, anything that can help to develop Africa’s resources and her people can only lead to greater profitability in the long term, for any company that chooses to do business there. Facebook’s move to take the largest market share possible of the Internet could never be seen as purely altruistic. It just makes good business sense.
At this time, many Africans do not have the access to the Internet that they need to make their businesses thrive. A number of young entrepreneurs in Africa have to get creative in terms of accessing an Internet connection. They have to travel far from home or use a service intermittently, sometimes paying more than they would if they could receive the internet in their own community.
African Leaders Look To Expand
According to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, both Africa and India offer lots of economic opportunity. African leaders are looking to expand their countries with Indian technology. In this environment, Facebook’s own investment can help even more with development.
Telecommunications Industry in Africa Growing Rapidly
Facebook’s investment in satellites which will beam the Internet to African homes and businesses across the continent will boost the rapidly growing telecommunications sector. Right now, Africa’s telecommunications sector is one of the fastest growing worldwide. A stable Internet will boost mobile use and benefit a number of related sectors, including:
- Online payment for utility bills
- Mobile transfer of photos, videos and other files
- Internet based African businesses, such as clothing stores and online pharmacies
In addition to providing more opportunities for African female and male entrepreneurs, Facebook’s venture into supplying Internet access throughout Africa is likely to result in the following:
Increased computer literacy among Africans of all ages
- Better infrastructure built on Internet access
- Less reliance on fixed or wired means of data transmission
- Better connections with international businesses
- Better information for SAHEL and other applications that benefit local agriculture
- Less government corruption, since information will be more widely accessible
- Improved quality of life in rural areas
- Fill the gap presented by the lack of local libraries in rural areas
Facebook’s aim to beam Internet throughout Africa is part of Internet.Org’s mission. This is also one of the Millennium Development Goals. The Facebook and EutelSat partnership should result in Africans’ receiving Internet in their communities in previously inaccessible areas from the start of 2016.
This use of EutelSat’s satellites will benefit Africa but it will also prompt other businesses to look at ways in which they can profit from all the satellites that are currently placed in strategic positions aorund the planet. It remains to be seen how well businesses will respond to Facebook’s investment and whether a strong competitor will rise up in the coming years. Perhaps one may even come from Africa.
Dr Alvaro Sobrinho had this to say: “Africa is now becoming synonymous with new technologies, as they spring up around the continent. But access to the internet is a critical component of this development, and it’s no surprise the largest companies in the world are adopting programmes like this. What we, as African business leaders, must ensure is that international businesses are embedded with communities and supported across the piece to help bring long term and sustainable success”