African Economic Growth Rides on Wireless Rails
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
In Kenya, hundreds of thousands of people are rising out of poverty as mobile-money services turn subsistence farmers into businesspeople. A similar dynamic drives Ethiopia, the fastest-growing economy in Africa, where the gross domestic product is forecast to climb 8 percent in 2019. Borrowing costs in Ghana plummeted almost 2.5 percentage points during the past 12 months amid an unprecedented gain in GDP that’s been led by the growth of the telecom industry.
From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, hand-held phones are letting people become their own ATMs, increasing economic activity by enabling payments for food, travel, school and business. Wireless communication is driving economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa much as the railroad did in the 19th-century U.S., accounting for almost a tenth of global mobile subscribers and a growth rate that’s beating the world.
The transformation is reflected in the more than 1,300 publicly-traded companies that make up corporate Africa. The value of communications firms increased during the past five years to 25 percent of the total market capitalization of African companies, up from 16 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Materials and energy, the natural-resources benchmarks that defined the region since its colonial days, diminished to a combined 18 percent from 27 percent during the same period.
Photo courtesy of Rob Tinworth.