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An interesting piece from this week’s Economist (“It may make life easier and cheaper”) details a spending splurge in East Africa, which comes in the form of a “regional communications revolution [that] belatedly got under way when Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, plugged in the first of three fibre-optic submarine cables due to make landfall in Kenya in the next few months.” The government is also getting rid of the sales tax on computers as well as new mobile phones, and also allows firms to write off bandwidth purchases. Per the report:

“With a mass of young English-speakers only an hour or two ahead of Europe’s time zones, east Africa should, with luck, be well-placed to compete with India and Sri Lanka for back-office work for Western companies. Broadband, say its promoters, will transform the lives of millions in countries such as Kenya and Sudan, almost as dramatically as mobile telephones have done—all the more so because of the parlous state of east Africa’s more old-fashioned infrastructure, especially roads and railways.”

As one commentator duly noted, undersea cable in East Africa was long overdue and signals a “shift in economic and political power to younger, tech-savvy Kenyans.” Kenyan transnationals (Kenya Airways, Bidco, KCB Bank, CMC Group, Nation Media, etc.) in particular will benefit from seamless communications networks that allow enterprise resource planning (ERP)–a company-wide computer software system used to manage and coordinate all the resources, information, and functions of a business from shared data stores–to lower costs & enhance decision-making. Furthermore, argues one observer, “internet access costs are slated to drop 50-60% over next twelve months and will help Kenya achieve higher economic growth. Just as India’s ‘youth’ benefitted from the internet explosion in the 1990s, Kenyan cadres of ICT professionals are salivating at opportunities available through broadband access.”

JGW

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