By Antony Mutunga
Africa has taken a step towards improving infrastructure as, with financial assistance from the international bodies and the East, many African economies have seen enormous changes. Africa has made some progress in the infrastructural improvement of fields such as transport, electricity, and information and communications technology. However, despite the improvement, Africa still lags.
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According to the African Development Bank, the continent needs up to Sh24.72 trillion ($170 billion) annually by 2025 to overhaul its infrastructure, with two-thirds needed for entirely new infrastructure and the remaining one-third for maintenance. Africa needs this funding as infrastructure investments have accounted for over half the continent’s economic growth, productivity increases, human development improvement, and poverty reduction.
This lack of proper infrastructure has seen Africa miss out on several opportunities that would promote the continent’s economic growth. For instance, big data technology has been crucial for Africa, but the continent has yet to take full advantage of the prospects it provides. Many African nations lack the infrastructure required to support big data initiatives. For instance, despite the number of Africans connected in many countries, the number of people still unconnected is high, and those connected still face the challenge of power outages.
So far, big data technology has helped Africa drive economic growth through the digital economy. The growth of e-commerce in a number of African countries, such as Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, has been facilitated by big data. It has enabled businesses and entrepreneurs to create novel products and services that cater to customer demands and drive profits.
According to Jenny Kamini, a data analyst, big data is helping Africa transform and enjoy the benefits of the digital era. “Big data analytics is transforming Africa’s private and public sectors by providing insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operations. Companies that leverage big data analytics have a competitive edge over their counterparts who aren’t leveraging the tech,” she said.
African organizations have already started integrating big data technology to make business decisions. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 66% of African businesses use data and analytics to inform business decisions; however, only 17% are considered advanced users. Despite the uptake of big data technology, businesses face obstacles to effectively adopting big data due to infrastructural deficits. A survey by Deloitte indicates that 75% of African companies face data quality issues, which can lead to erroneous results and hinder decision-making.
Apart from the lack of good infrastructure, Africa has to put in place measures that assure the security and privacy of the citizens’ data. Most African economies lack the laws and regulations to protect their citizens’ data; thus, it is easy for the data to be accessed, used, or misused. Furthermore, Africa must improve its data collection processes and invest in data quality assessment tools and techniques. These are crucial for the success of big data analytics projects.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) projects that the big data market will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.7% between 2021 and 2026, from Sh424.57 billion ($2.92 billion) in 2020 to Sh610.68 billion ($4.2 billion) in 2026, Africa needs to invest in infrastructure to gain the most benefits.
As Africa increases its uptake of big data technology, other technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are becoming more widespread. Africa has to take advantage of emerging technologies if it is to reach or surpass the projection of the World Bank that the digital economy in Africa would be worth Sh26.17 trillion ($180 billion) by 2025.