The World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili has pointed to the $60 billion investments in Africa’s ICT sector as a revolutionary example.
Ezekwesili was speaking to investors, business executives, members of the African Diaspora and students attending the 7th edition of the Columbia University African Economic Forum in New York.
She said the revolution in the ICT sector “is only a signpost of what is possible in other sectors still virgin in Africa.”
The ICT sector, she said is only one example of Africa’s many opportunities of cashing in on transformative growth.
Ezekwesili indicated that thanks to mobile telephony, even where land lines were once non-existent or a luxury for the rich few, cell phones are now aplenty.
She said cell phones have, in fact, become one of the important assets for poor farmers in Kenya and fishermen in Sierra Leone, helping them to gain access to market information, bargain hard for their products, boost their incomes and take advantage of opportunities that would otherwise have past them by.
If the global financial crisis proved one thing, it is that the riskiest markets and business ventures are not necessarily only in Africa, she said.
She told the investors that the continent also offers splendid profit-making opportunities, suggesting that investors who could but failed to get in on the ICT sector before the current boom must now be gnashing their teeth.
A ghanabusinessnews.com report of January 4, 2010 said many more people in Africa use mobile phones than in any part of the world, citing a new report by the International Telecommunications Union.
By the end of 2008, Africa had 246 million mobile subscriptions and mobile penetration has risen from just five percent in 2003 to well over 30% today.
Ezekwesili said as Africa rebounds from the global economic crisis with growth forecasted at between 4.4 and 5.2 percent in 2010, opportunities in larger economies seem to be slowing down, adding that it is a good thing. “Now we can get you home,” she told members of the African Diaspora in attendance.
She encouraged the Diaspora to think creatively about how to use some of the US$20 billion they wire home every year in remittances to help create jobs on a continent where growth has been without jobs.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi