SKILL TRANSFER // World Population Trends and Technology
by Shalane van Rensburg
World Population Trends and Technology
With the world’s population estimated currently at 7 billion, projected to reach 8.9 billion by 2050 and expected to reach a peak of 9.22 billion by 2075, massive pressure and opportunities will develop for numerous business sectors and industries.
Within the African continent, the central, eastern and western regions are projected to grow particularly fast. African patterns for growth are expected to display higher fertility and mortality rates. These regions share the largest estimated population on the continent, amounting to 72% in the year 2000 and peaking at 84% in 2050.
What this means for the future of business within these regions is a dramatic increase in the supply of goods and services. Added pressure will be placed on governments in terms of civic construction and the delivery of basic needs for this population growth.
The fallout of these predictions is that added pressure will already be placed on poorly equipped urban areas. As African migration patterns typically depict individuals moving from rural to urban areas, this will also place added pressure on regions that are prone to high levels of migration, such as South Africa – as, currently, many countries are viewed by their people as being poorly resourced or conflicted by political and social issues.
The increased business opportunities that will arise from this will be based on agricultural expectations to supply this population with adequate food, primarily grain. Pressure that will be placed on the adequate distribution of necessary resources will place governments at a critical crossroads which may permit the private sector to gain inroads on industries previously dominated by state control. These will include energy and water distribution.
ss will see growth and the supply of mobile and digital communication will see dramatic growth.
In July 2011, IBM, a global leader in technology, won a 10-year, USD1.5-billion contract to provide Indian mobile-phone company Bharti Airtel with information technology services in 16 African countries. The company has since established itself in Angola, Mauritius and Tanzania, as well as Senegal, boasting a presence in 20 African countries and opening one of 12 global research labs in Nairobi.
In early 2013, Google’s Chair, Eric Schmidt, travelled through sub-Saharan Africa and remarked how Nairobi, “has emerged as a serious tech hub and may become the African leader”.
French mobile operator Orange, which sponsors the continent’s football tournament AFCON, and Baidu, China’s answer to Google, recently introduced a jointly branded smartphone browser in Africa and the Middle East.
The Microsoft Corporation has bases in 14 African countries and recently unveiled a Huawei smartphone that uses Microsoft’s new operating system and will be sold in several African markets.
In Kenya, Microsoft is seeking to move into broadband regions that do not have electricity through the use of solar power and ‘white spaces’, or spare broadcast-television frequencies. It aims to complete this task within a year, according to Fernando de Sousa, the general manager for Microsoft in Africa. With similar projects planned for other regions, it has app factories running in Egypt and South Africa.
ounced a programme called SME4Afrika, which is intended to bring 1m small and medium-sized enterprises online. De Sousa points out that technology can also draw informal businesses into the formal economy. The ability to use software, computing power and storage online ‘as a service’, paying only for what you need and only when you need it, may put the cost of information technology within the budget of many small African businesses.
In numerous sectors such as health care, education and water, as well as traffic, governments are sure to be important customers for information technology companies. Private clients will be of key importance in telecoms and finance, a connection significantly bridged by the mobile phone. Mobile banking and money transfer systems such as M-Pesa in East Africa are a daily, efficient and reliable source of money transfer for individuals.
Insight into mobile device usage shows an average of at least 90% of each country making use of a mobile device. Twelve percent of the population own desktops in sub-Saharan Africa, but 18% have access to smartphones. The use of mobile devices in business will be a great contributor to economic growth and development.
The African continent is set to be one of seven fastest-growing economies in the world between 2011 and 2015. Global corporations recognise this factor and are including it in their strategies for growth.
These recent trends by multinational companies highlight the fresh approach to business on the continent that corporations are taking – making inroads and investments that will provide services for African people. These decisions may be based on assumptions regarding demographic and population growth or merely on the simplicity of conducting business in Africa.