The digital economy of West Africa in the telecommunication sector has evolved quickly in recent years. With the introduction of startups and government policies to aid businesses and internet stability, the region is getting much-needed boosts through great partnerships and investments.
In line with this, West Africa aims to actively develop the digital economy sector for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The prospect will combat the unemployment rate increase, job scarcity, and digital literacy gap. It will enable fast internet networks that are efficient with vast coverage for communities.
The estimated mobile industry’s contribution to the GDP of West Africa is $70 billion. The West African country, Nigeria, is regarded as the vast ICT market in Africa, with 82% telecom subscribers and 29% internet usage.
According to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) intelligence mobile report 2019 for West Africa, the mobile ecosystem employs 200,000 people directly. The sector supports jobs of 800,000 in the informal sector and 600,000 in other economies. In the report, the GSMA projects West Africa’s unique mobile subscribers to hit 248 million with 442 million sim connections and $18 billion in operator revenues and investments in 2025.
The market growth of countries varies across West Africa. Notwithstanding, the vision of the region is with an economic outlook to grow and emerge into the global scene through frontier technologies which it is still gradually adapting to.
The expected improvement of the region will come from policy instruments and investments in ICT infrastructures, technical skills, and green technologies that are vital for robust developments. In 2023, Nigeria and Ghana are adopting and integrating the 5G broadband penetration and wireless service through government and private sector collaboration.
According to the UNCTAD, the 2023 Frontier Technologies Readiness Index has Mauritius (73), Ghana (109), Cabo Verde (115), Nigeria (119), Senegal (128), Côte D’Ivoire (136), Burkina Faso (140), Togo (142), Benin (143), Mali (145), Mauritania (153), Guinea (157), the Gambia (160), Sierra Leone (161), and Guinea Bissau (165).
The ranking uses five key indicators; ICT, Skills, R&D, Industry, and Finance. With 169 countries ranked, the index is according to their readiness to use frontier technologies in 2023.
Furthermore, in a strategic partnership between UNCTAD and ECOWAS, the region is boosted with a developed plan to increase e-commerce, diversify the Member States’ economies and create jobs. Through the implementation, there will be various opportunities for the people to leverage both at the national and regional levels.
In the framework, the policy will strengthen quality e-commerce services, ease of business, secured payment systems, logistics, and availability of standard products for buying and selling.
Through the support of the E-Trade readiness assessment of the UNCTAD e-commerce and digital economy programme, the outlook into West Africa will bridge the community divide, bring inclusivity and increase productivity. With a regional observatory and a civil and private forum for the e-commerce plan by ECOWAS, reliable data will be generated and used for more improved work.
With this framework for transformation, West Africa’s digital economy is meeting the ICT needs of the region and integrating the international indicators of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Meanwhile, ECOWAS Vision 2050 and multi-stakeholder’s inclusive partnerships are advancing the digital economies of West Africa.