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Africa set to become ICT investment destination

Last updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 2:25 PM
African tribal musical band at the Dubai World Trade Centre during the Gitex Technology Week.

AFRICA is set to become one of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) investment opportunities of the decade, according to leading industry experts. Keen to explore this emerging market and promote its significant ICT opportunities for global and Middle East-based companies, Gitex Technology Week is putting its most prominent spotlight yet on the continent. Gitex Technology is running until Oct. 18 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

This year, Gitex has seen a 23 percent increase in exhibitors from countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. Strong trade delegations are also present from countries like Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Lesotho, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

“We see Gitex as the ideal opportunity to foster business links between Middle East and African companies. Now, given the new geopolitical situation, countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt are looking for new markets and new opportunities, and Dubai is now the most important place to look for partners and promote events and products. For us, and our delegates, Gitex is where we will find what we’re looking for in the ICT sector,” said Chihab Bargaoui, Business Development and Relationship Manager with Sfax International Fair Association, a part government-backed exhibition organizer in Tunisia.

Gitex “Africa in Focus” highlight comes at a time when significant regional investor buzz is moving from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations to also encompass the emerging continent, particularly potential economic powerhouses such as Nigeria, which features the largest African population, as well as notable natural resources such as gold and oil to aid its growth.

Africa’s ICT sector has flourished in recent years and is predicted by IT market intelligence specialists International Data Corporation (IDC) to grow nearly 13 percent year on year in 2012.

Anticipating this prospect, Gitex will provide the opportunity to broaden existing links and develop new partnerships in the ICT sector between Africa and the Middle East. According to DHL, South Africa is the UAE’s 13th most important market for non-oil exports, while Dubai Exports notes that total exports and re-exports from Dubai to South Africa alone valued at $408 million in 2011. Trade between Africa and Dubai had previously registered steady growth as more and more African countries continue to adopt free trade policies, and recognize Dubai’s position as an international trading hub.

Furthermore, there is encouragement to be had from surging mobile adoption growth rates across sub-Saharan Africa. Research by the Arab Advisors Group indicates that a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent by the end of 2016 can be expected across the Democratic republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The total shared increase equates to around 121 million new subscriptions in the regions. Total cellular revenue, which reached $9 billion in 2011, is expected to grow at a 10 percent CAGR. Underpinning this encouraging trend, the International Monetary Fund predicts Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy to grow by 5.5 percent in 2012, owing in part to a fast-growing and brand-savvy middle class. — SG

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